ALBURGH, Vt. — It took months for anyone to discover that an eccentric man known simply as Radkin had died, crushed under a tractor-pulled horse trailer on his property on the shores of Lake Champlain in northern Vermont. But it didn’t take long for looters to ransack the hoarder’s dilapidated house, police say, hauling off antiques, a vehicle, scrap metal and more than $200,000 in gold coins.
Four people, including at least one who police suspect knew Radkin, 66, are facing charges of stealing the coins and cashing them in at coin and jewelry stores. Police expect to make more arrests.
“We’ve been watching the looters come and go,” said John Fleury of Enosburgh, who has a camp across Route 2 from Radkin’s property in Alburgh.
He said no one called the police because no one was concerned.
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The property includes a dilapidated brick house and outbuildings full to the brim with stuff.
“What it is, is a hoarder’s house,” said Vermont State Police Sgt. Maurice Lamothe, who is investigating the burglaries. “The exterior is covered in outbuildings, cars, trailers, and every one of them is full, I mean full to the top. I had never been in a hoarder’s house prior to this. The rooms, you can’t walk through them, you can’t walk through any of them.”
Charged are Ricky Benjamin, 35; and Mark Mumley, 52, both of Alburgh; and Shawn Farrell, 41, of Swanton, who have significant prior records, Lamothe said. Mumley is being held on $75,000, and Benjamin was released on bail. A fourth suspect — 32-year-old Jennifer Jarvis of Alburgh — was released after being issued a citation.
Police said the defendants sold coins ranging in value from $350 to $1,800 to coin and jewelry dealers in another county after allegedly claiming they’d inherited the coins.
The number of coins coming in was a red flag for one dealer, who called police.
So far, investigators say they’ve recovered $5,000 in coins, which are British sovereign coins.
A friend of Radkin wasn’t surprised he had the coins.
“I’m surprised by how much he had,” said Van Powell, mechanical-shop manager for the Shelburne Shipyard, where Radkin once worked.
“Radkin was inclined to acquire stuff whether he needed it or not. At one point he had five or six MGs, none of them running,” he said.
“He had at one point six or seven pianos, and he just kept them in the front yard of his house covered with canvasses, and I just thought that was odd because he was quite a good musician. He would play the trumpet and the piano.”
People either loved Radkin or hated him, he said.
Neighbors had feuded with him in Alburgh, where he had been known to run around his property naked, Fluery said.
“Radkin was very, very rude,” he said.
Born Richard Burgess in Greenfield, Mass., in 1945, he graduated from Deerfield Academy and later changed his name to just Radkin, and eventually lived as a caretaker on property on Shelburne Point. He worked at Mad River Glen ski area in Fayston at one point. He liked to go to auctions and flea markets and lived off the grid.
“He was an unusual fellow, that’s for sure,” Powell said.
When a friend had not heard from or seen Radkin in a while, he called the sheriff’s department. His body was found crushed under the trailer in March, in an accident that officials believe happened in December 2011.