The "shameless attempt to profit from a national tragedy" by selling coins purportedly made of silver recovered from Ground Zero was halted on Wednesday, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said.
Spitzer said he won a court order to temporarily stop the sale of the Sept. 11 commemorative coins because the company selling them made false claims aimed at duping buyers.
Advertisements claimed falsely that the coins -- which depict the proposed new "Freedom Tower" on one side and a Manhattan skyline including the World Trade Center Twin Towers on the other -- were made with pure silver and implied they could be used as real money, Spitzer said.
"This product has been promoted with claims that are false, misleading or unsubstantiated," Spitzer said in a statement. "It is a shameless attempt to profit from a national tragedy."
He said the coins were silver-plated, not solid silver, and that he was investigating claims that the silver was from Ground Zero, or the site of the destroyed Twin Towers.
The court order was issued on Tuesday by State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Cannizzaro in Albany. Spitzer's office is seeking penalties against privately held National Collector's Mint of Port Chester, New York, which is selling the coins.
The size of the fine will depend on how many coins were bought since they went on sale last month. The attorney general can seek civil penalties of as much as $500 for each false advertisement or each coin that was sold.
The company's advertisement said each coin was a "legally authorized government issue silver dollar" minted by the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, which is part of U.S. territory. The coins also say "In God We Trust" on one side, just like official U.S. currency.
The advertisement also said, "Most importantly, each coin has been created using .999 Pure Silver recovered from Ground Zero!" The coins sold for $19.95 each.