Police in Houston and Walker County said they were investigating claims of a million-dollar gold heist and kidnapping that started in Houston's River Oaks neighborhood, Local 2 Investigates reported on Wednesday.
The crime was reported Tuesday morning off Highway 150 near Cold Springs in Walker County when a passing motorist spotted a bleeding man on the roadside.
Walker County Sheriff's investigators and Houston Police identified the robbery victim as 39-year-old Brian J. Danek, owner of Bayou City Bullion and Coins.
In his LinkedIn profile online, http://www.linkedin.com/in/briandanek, Danek wrote that he deals in gold coins, a business that he said had grown from only a few hours per week.
Walker County Sheriff's investigators in Huntsville told Local 2 Investigates that Danek was found bloodied and disoriented off Highway 150 near Cold Springs before noon on Tuesday morning.
Investigators said he told them he was kidnapped during a robbery that started in the 3200 block of Reba in River Oaks.
Houston Police Robbery Squad Sgt. Darrell DeFee told Local 2 Investigates that Danek claims he was contacted by email, thinking he was conversing with a prominent Houston businessman who wanted to buy gold.
A meeting was arranged, Danek told police, and he reported that he was carrying "more than seven figures" worth of gold coins and bullion.
A few blocks from that arranged meeting, Danek claims that a dark colored sedan with tinted windows bumped into his SUV on Reba. When he got out of his car, Danek told police the three men grabbed him and shoved him in the back of their car.
As they drove away, the police report spells out that Danek claims one of the robbers followed behind the robbers' car in his stolen GMC sport utility vehicle.
More than an hour later, DeFee said Danek reports he was injured while trying to escape the robbers. He gashed his head on the concrete after jumping over a guardrail, and DeFee said evidence at the scene confirms that is where Danek was injured.
The man told police he was unconscious for a while and when he woke up, his gold and his SUV and his personal wrist-watch were all gone.
He was flown by medical helicopter to Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center, where the hospital was not releasing his condition on Wednesday afternoon.
HPD investigators said they spent the day interviewing him and documenting his account of the million-dollar robbery.
A phone listing for Danek was answered by a woman who said she would relay a message to his family for comment. Investigators said Danek is married with children.
Local 2 Investigates spoke with several residents who were home at the time the staged crash and robbery/kidnapping were reported near their homes, but no one reported seeing anything unusual having occurred that day. Dozens of construction workers were often outside one home on that block, but they reported seeing nothing as well.
While some police officers told Local 2 Investigates they doubted several parts of the story and questioned whether a robbery really occurred at all, DeFee said he was taking the report "at face value" at this point. He said that it "may need a couple days to bake" before additional facts are known about the legitimacy of the case.
Court records show Danek served nearly five years in federal prison from a 2002 conviction in a weapons selling scam. He was arrested on charges of dealing guns with falsified federal paperwork, a scam known as a 'straw-buyer' arrangement, but ended up pleading guilty to a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He appealed his conviction but that appeal was tossed out and he served his time in prison, according to records in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
Danek told investigators that some of the gold that was stolen from him was from his own personal inventory, while some of the gold was being sold on "consignment," meaning it belonged to someone else who had entrusted him to sell it for them.
Property tax records show that Danek does not live in the River Oaks area, but he does own a home valued at nearly $800,000 off the Katy Freeway near the Hunters Creek Village neighborhood.
Police said Danek's silver 2011 GMC Denali had not yet been located. It bears temporary paper license tags of 81-M-5250.
He told police one of the robbers weighed more than 350 pounds, and all three men spoke English but with deep accents that could be Russian or another eastern European language.