FAIRBANKS — Fairbanks locksmith Forrest R. Holton was arrested Saturday by Fairbanks police on a charge of felony theft of national currency notes from the estate of the late William “Bill” Stroecker. The notes have an estimated value of $500,000.
The alleged theft dates to Dec. 29, 2010, when Holton was called to Key Bank in downtown Fairbanks by Stroecker’s estate attorneys, Richard Hompesh and Matt Blattmachr. The key to the late banker’s four safety deposit boxes could not be found and Holton was called in to drill the Diebold boxes open.
According to Don Dennis, spokesman for the Stroecker estate and foundation, the theft didn’t come to the attorneys’ attention until months later, when they were spotted on an auction site based in Dallas.
“These items are rare enough that a number of (local) people became aware of it before the estate was, and notified the estate,” Dennis said.
The theft was reported to Fairbanks police on April 19, and an investigation began.
Holton was identified as the person who sold 10 antique currency notes to the auction company on Jan. 26, for $82,000, and deposited the check on the same day into a personal account at Wells Fargo Bank.
Holton also was found to be negotiating a sale of another 30 to 40 notes with an East Coast currency dealer.
On Saturday, the police investigator met Holton at Fairbanks International Airport as he was returning from a combined vacation/work trip, and took him into custody.
Holton made a verbal and written confession that stated he stole a red cloth envelope containing the notes. He was escorted to his home, where the rest of the notes were recovered from a chest of drawers, and then to a rented storage unit where two uncut sheets of currency were secreted behind a photograph hanging on the wall. The uncut sheets were not initially reported as stolen, but they are estimated to be worth $250,000 together.
Holton was arraigned Sunday. Bail was set at $100,000 and a third party custodian.
Stroecker, a banker for 60 years, was born in Fairbanks in 1920 and died here on Nov. 10. The bulk of his fortune, estimated to be worth millions of dollars, is bequeathed to a wide variety of nonprofit community and national organizations. Distribution will be handled through the W.G. Stroecker Foundation, which is being organized.
Contact staff writer Mary Beth Smetzer at 459-7546.