Death on NYC train platform leads to $180k mystery

Associated Press Modified: May 3, 2012 at 9:31 am •  Published: May 3, 2012
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NEW YORK (AP) — The mystery began with a heart attack, a man with a past, and a bag of money that federal authorities now want to keep.

In August, a retired Teamster from Boston stepped off an Amtrak train in New York City and collapsed on the platform at Pennsylvania Station. As medics tried to revive him, police searched his backpack for identification. Inside, they found the stuff that "Law & Order" episodes are made of: $179,980 in cash, bundled with rubber bands and tucked inside two plastic bags.

That raised some eyebrows. So did the dead man's background.

William P. Coyman, 75, a lifelong resident of Boston's Charlestown section, had a criminal history dating to 1955. His record included prison time in New Hampshire after he was caught with a pile of cocaine and $20,000 that had just been stolen from a department store.

Coyman's old union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 25, was notorious for its organized crime ties in the 1990s. Years ago, Coyman's name was mentioned in news articles about allegations that union officials were shaking down Hollywood film crews and forcing producers to give cushy film set jobs to gangland hoodlums. He'd worked as a driver on some of the films in question.

Police brought in a drug-sniffing dog, which indicated traces of narcotics in both Coyman's backpack and briefcase, according to a court filing. Investigators contacted one of Coyman's relatives, who said he had been working as a courier for a company called 180 Entertainment and was supposed to have been delivering cash from Boston to Philadelphia when he died.

Agents looked into the company and found that its registered headquarters was a small house in a blue-collar section of Philadelphia, with personal watercraft and two luxury cars parked in the driveway.

All this made the Drug Enforcement Administration very suspicious.

In February, federal prosecutors in New York asked a judge for permission to keep the cash as the suspected proceeds of drug dealing.

Reached by the AP in California, Coyman's son, also named William, declined to speak about the situation, other than to say that the money didn't belong to the family.

"The people connected to that money are probably not good people," he said. "My dad was a great man. But clearly he had a colorful history. ... As a kid growing up, my father was in the newspaper and it was embarrassing. It has been embarrassing my whole life."

Friends and relatives who posted remembrances of Coyman on websites after his death recalled the brighter side of his life, including a fondness for Irish song, loyalty to family and an affinity for the local horse track.

A lawyer from Providence, R.I., has filed court papers claiming the cash on behalf of 180 Entertainment. In the filings, the attorney, Steven D. DiLibero, identified his client as a man named Joseph Burke but didn't explain the company's business or say where the money was headed.