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Barry Landau Conspirator Sentenced to Prison in Scheme to Steal Valuable Historical Documents
Original Documents of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, John Adams, Franklin Roosevelt, and Others Stolen from Historical Societies and Museums

U.S. Attorney’s Office November 09, 2012
  • District of Maryland (410) 209-4800

BALTIMORE, MD—U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced Jason James Savedoff, a/k/a “Jason James,” and “Justin Ward,” age 25, of New York, New York, today to a year and a day in prison followed by two years of supervised release for conspiracy and theft of historical documents from museums in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut and sell selected documents for profit. Judge Blake also ordered Savedoff to pay restitution of $16,125.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Acting Inspector General James Springs of the National Archives and Records Administration-Office of Inspector General; Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts; and Baltimore City State’s Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein.

According to his plea agreement, from December 2010 through July 2011, Savedoff and co-defendant Barry Landau stole documents and manuscripts from numerous museums, including the Maryland Historical Society, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Connecticut Historical Society, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, a component of the National Archives.

Savedoff and Landau prepared lists containing the names of historical figures and other noteworthy individuals and made notes of the value of signatures and documents authored or signed by the individuals. Savedoff, under Landau’s direction, identified collections containing valuable documents, which were targeted for theft. Savedoff used aliases when he visited certain libraries to protect the ongoing criminal scheme.

Savedoff and Landau visited numerous museums posing as researchers; accessed collections of documents which they had determined to be of significant value; reviewed the documents from the collections; and used various techniques to steal them. These techniques included concealing documents inside sports coats and other outerwear that had been modified to contain hidden pockets, as well as distracting museum curators to disguise their actions. Later, the conspirators removed any marking or inventory control notations made on the stolen documents.

A checklist was prepared for each stolen document which identified the author and date of the document; the collection from which it was stolen; whether the museum card catalogue had been collected; whether any microfilm or other “finding aid” existed for the document at the museum; the nature of any markings on the document: and whether any museum markings had been removed from the document. In an effort to conceal the theft, Savedoff and Landau often took the card catalogue entries and other “finding aids,” making it difficult for the museum to discover that an item was missing.

Specifically, on July 9, 2011, Savedoff and Landau visited the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, where Landau had already provided the curators with a list of boxes he wished to review, stating that he was performing research for a book. While reviewing the various document and manuscript collections, the conspirators attempted to distract the museum staff and shield their efforts to steal documents. Their actions concerned the curators, who summoned the police. Savedoff had the key to one of the museum lockers, where officers discovered a a computer bag containing 79 stolen documents. A review of the documents by curators revealed that 60 documents had been removed from the Maryland Historical Society, including a land grant dated June 1, 1861, to a soldier from the Maryland Militia, War of 1812, signed by President Abraham Lincoln. The remaining 19 documents contained markings which identified them as being from collections maintained at the Connecticut Historical Society and other institutions.

The 6,000 items seized from Landau’s apartment that have been identified as being stolen from libraries and repositories throughout the United States, including documents signed by George Washington, John Adams, Franklin Roosevelt, Marie Antoinette, Karl Marx, and Sir Isaac Newton, will continue to be returned to the appropriate museum, repository, or owner.

Barry H. Landau, age 64, of New York, New York, previously pleaded guilty to his participation in the conspiracy. Judge Blake sentenced Landau to seven years in prison and ordered him to pay restitution totaling $46,525 to three dealers who unwittingly purchased stolen documents from Landau and to forfeit all the documents recovered during the searches of his New York apartment.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI, Baltimore Police Department, National Archives and Records Administration-Office of Inspector General, and the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys James G. Warwick and P. Michael Cunningham, who prosecuted the case.

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