You Call This a Safe-Deposit Box?

Money, jewels, and gold coins have a strange way of disappearing from Intervault. We do know a former owner is locked up.

"We think they were stalling for time in order to get the money together," says Mike Gelety, Holder's attorney. "They really had no defense." Intervault claimed the cash had genuinely been misplaced. Gilchrist's wife, Linder, who took over the company after her husband's incarceration, declined to answer questions about the missing cash or any of the other lawsuits.

In April 1997 she did have a good explanation of where to find the 224 mint-condition gold coins removed from Glen Speck's safe-deposit box after it was opened for nonpayment. A letter, signed by Linder Gilchrist and addressed to the Florida State Office of the Comptroller, claimed that the company had sent Speck's coins to the abandoned-property division of that office shortly after his box was drilled. There is no record any property has ever been sent by Intervault to the Comptroller. In fact, because the Comptroller regulates banks but does not regulate private safe-deposit box companies, had such property been sent to that agency, it probably would have been returned. Although there are statutes governing companies like Intervault, it turns out there is no state agency that enforces those statutes, though the Division of Consumer Services of the Florida Department of Agriculture does investigate complaints about all sorts of companies, including private vaults.

Speck claims that six months after his box was drilled, 124 gold coins, of inferior quality to the originals, were returned to him. That number is 100 coins short of the amount he says was originally in the box. Next month Speck's lawyer, Jack O'Donnell, plans to interview Tom Pilitowski, a Fort Lauderdale coin dealer who advertises at Intervault, about gold coins he allegedly purchased from Gilchrist's son, William III. The younger Gilchrist began helping out at Intervault after he was fired in 1994 from his job as a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Deputy for reportedly helping a Cuban drug trafficker plan a jailbreak. Neither Gilchrist's son nor Pilitowski would comment on the alleged coin purchase, but Intervault's attorney, Michael Widoff, was quick to defend the company. "If these people had paid the rent on their boxes, they never would have been drilled," said the lawyer. "Banks are sued on a regular basis, but that doesn't make them crooks." He would not comment on the specifics of any of the lawsuits.

Gilchrist Jr. recently became eligible for parole. By the time he gets out of federal prison, sometime in the next few months, the Italian grandmother may have abandoned her lawsuit. She says the two-year legal battle to find answers about what happened to her lost jewels has wreaked havoc on her health. "I am 74 years old, and I'm a fighter," she says. "But this thing has been running my life for the last two years. I don't need the money, I don't need this trauma. I just wanted to have something to pass on to my grandchildren.

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