Fake space rock peddler guilty on three counts
A Mesa County jury late Thursday returned guilty verdicts against a Montrose man charged with selling fake meteorites, whose work has also drawn the attention of the Colorado Attorney General’s office.
Steven Curry, 59, who argued he was the victim of a bizarre conspiracy of scientists, meteorite experts and at least one Grand Junction police officer, was found guilty of misdemeanor counts of theft, fraud in effecting sales and criminal simulation.
A five-woman, one-man jury reached verdicts by 10 p.m., just under an hour after receiving the case, which consumed more than eight hours of testimony in the courtroom of County Court Judge Craig Henderson.
Curry was cited in January following an investigation by Grand Junction police officer Ryan Piotrowksi, several months after Delta meteorite expert Blaine Reed and his wife, Linda, purchased a purported meteorite provided by Curry to Main Street Minerals and Beads, 524 Main St. The couple paid more than $600.
Piotrowski testified that Curry told him he believed a conspiracy consisted of “educated and uneducated persons,” including scientists who wanted to stop him from selling meteorites.
Curry, who testified his own defense, said he had suspicions Piotrowski was part of the conspiracy, adding he didn’t like the officer’s tone and manner during an interview early on in the investigation.
“You also thought he was part of the conspiracy because you thought (Piotroswski) had a Jewish last name?” Deputy District Attorney Carmen Rickard asked Curry during cross-examination.
Curry didn’t answer after Henderson sustained a defense objection.
Three witnesses, two of whom were qualified as experts, testified that examination of the alleged meteorite purchased by the Reeds on Oct. 1, 2011 using X-ray technology showed it didn’t come close to having the amount of nickel that would show up in a true meteorite.
Curry, a retired game maker with a bachelor’s degree in art, explained he’d taken to collecting meteorites in 2009 and studied the subject exhaustively, insisting he acted in good faith in labeling his products. Aside from Grand Junction, Curry’s meteorites were also sold in Telluride and Glenwood Springs.
“If there’s one thing I don’t want to do, it’s get out there and make a fool out of myself,” Curry testified.
In a recorded interview with Piotrowski, which was played for the jury, Curry at one point suggests he accepted standards generally applied in the meteorite community for the level of nickel in a meteorite.
Curry, in the same interview, said meteorites need not contain nickel, flying in the face of mainstream science.
Curry added he was, “part of a wave giving scientists new information to go back and correct (old understandings about meteorites) from the ‘50s and ‘60s.”
The attorney general in June secured an injunction against Curry selling meteorites. He’s scheduled for sentencing next Friday.