A Lethbridge man was recently charged with the theft of a $10,000 Magic: The Gathering card collection. In addition to theft, he was also charged with possession of stolen property for the purpose of trafficking. How did 33 year old Michael Thomas Coates earn the attention of a store owner and police? He attempted to sell cards from the collection for significantly less than they were actually worth, and at a store he didn’t normally play at.
The high-value 400-plus card collection was stolen after the owner participated in Kapow Comic’s weekly Friday Night Magic tournament on January 22. Early reports indicated that the collection owner accidentally left the binder full of cards at the store, where they promptly ‘disappeared.’ However, Wallie Desruisseaux, owner of the tournament hosting venue, told reporters that the owner left his binder in his backpack while he was participating, and the cards were stolen from there.
Just a day later, Coates found himself at Showcase Comics, another store in Lethbridge. But a series of astute observations on the part of store owner Bob Hoff and poor planning on Coates part lead to the thief’s arrest.
Coates spoke with Hoff about selling the cards, but the situation set off alarm bells for the store owner. For one, Coates wasn’t a regular and had never played there before. He also walked in with a pretty massive collection, both card-number- and value-wise; in Lethbridge’s tight knit Magic community, store owners tend to know who has the big collections, according to Hoff. But most importantly, Coates asked for a massively low ball amount for the cards.
To get more information, Hoff asked to hold on to the cards so he could have another local player take a look to determine the overall value; Coates apparently obliged, leaving behind 35 cards before taking off. The adviser also had doubts about the situation, and as luck would have it, the owner of the collection came to the store, presumably to see if they had heard anything about the cards.
Hoff called the police, and they took it from there. Coates has been arrested and charged, but the vast majority of the collection is still missing – to the tune of at least 400 cards. Apparently, Coates isn’t talking, so police are asking that any information be reported to them at 403-328-4444, via Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477, online, or via text by texting 232 plus your tip to 274637.
In order to reclaim as much of the collection as possible, police are asking anyone in the area who bought or traded Magic cards with Coates since January 22 to contact them to discuss the transactions. As far as Coates is concerned, he’ll be appearing before a judge on February 19. In Canada, theft over $5,000 is a straight indictable offense with a maximum penalty of ten years in prison.