A New York man has pleaded guilty this week to stealing pieces of our nation’s history.
According to the FBI, Barry H. Landau, 63, of New York, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiracy and theft of historical documents from museums across New England, including original documents of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, John Adams, Franklin Roosevelt and others. Landau also admitted to attempting to sell the documents for a profit.
From December 2010 to July 2011, Landau and co-conspirator Jason Savedoff stole the documents from a series of museums and historical societies across New England, targeting specific collections based on content and perceived dollar values, according to the plea agreement.
The two researched collections over the Internet, identifying specific documents and signatures of historic individuals to target for theft, says the FBI. Once located, Landau e-mailed Savedoff the titles and locations of collections which were eventually stolen.
At numerous museums the two posed as researchers, accessing collections of documents. Some of their methods of thievery included concealing documents in sports coats and hidden pockets and distracting curators.. The two kept records of the documents and their contents they had stolen, as well as where they had all come from. The two removed museum markings on documents and often stole card catalogues indexing of the stolen items to conceal the theft from the museums.
Suspicious curators at the Maryland Historical Society called the police on July 9, 2011, as Landau and Savedoff were viewing collections under the guise of authors researching a book. Police found 79 documents hidden in a computer bag in a museum locker that Savedoff had the key to. Sixty of those documents were found to have been stolen the Maryland Historical Society. One document with the signature of Abraham Lincoln was valued “well in excess of $100,000,” according to the FBI.
Police searched Landau’s New York City home on July 12, 2011, and again on August 2, 2011, finding more than 10,000 documents and cultural heritage objects, including “documents signed by George Washington, John Adams, Franklin Roosevelt, Marie Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte, Karl Marx, Sir Isaac Newton and others.”
Savedoff previously pleaded guilty. The two face a five year maximum for conspiracy charges and ten years for the theft.