Beware! My personal opinion is voiced in this article.

Here we go again. This is the most recent reported case of the theft of historical documents by a presidential historian and his assistant for profit.  Who would actually buy these artifacts and not realize that they were “hot” properties? Most of us have seen movies and read books about art thefts, mostly romanticized, where the buyers have to view the artifacts hidden in an elaborate basement vault.

Barry Landau, 63, admitted in court that he and his assistant, Jason Savedoff, 24, pinched over 10,000 documents, which were seized by the FBI from Landau’s Manhattan apartment and traced as being stolen from well-known libraries and museums. The theft team was indicted last year after a spree from December 2010 through July last year.

At the time of their arrest these criminals were in possession of 80 documents—60 belonged to the Maryland society and included papers signed by Abraham Lincoln worth $300,000 and presidential inaugural ball invitations and programs worth $500,000. There were other documents signed by other  American presidents George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Founding Father John Adams. There were also artifacts from French Marie Antoinette and Napoleon Bonaparte.

Landau and Jason Savedoff were sentenced to up to 5 years for their conspiracy and 10 years for theft.  I have often wondered why white collar criminals spend so little time in prison with time off for good behavior, and are incarcerated in low security prisons (holiday camps). To quote W.S. Gilbert (a brilliant lyricist with a deep understanding of the human condition) of the Gilbert and Sullivan team from their operetta The Mikado, “My object all sublime I shall achieve in time—To let the punishment fit the crime—The punishment fit the crime…”.

According to the Justice Department, Landau actually admitted to researching items to steal and targeted the museums and libraries “posing as researchers” for access. Premeditated. Perhaps this is not on the scale of Bernie Madoff or many of the hideous crimes committed by sociopaths, but shows a broken moral compass.  This a wake-up call to archives and historical institutions to increase security. In this day and age you can’t tell a book by its cover.

To get more details about the theft, click on USA Today.

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2 Comments on Presidential historian sentenced for stealing historical documents for profit

  1. A. Steward says:

    This is a great post. I say, toss ‘em in jail and throw away the key.

  2. L. Forsyth says:

    If he could no longer afford his apartment in New York City he should have moved to somewhere less costly or taken a sailing trip off the coast of Somalia.:-)

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