Barry Landau, collector of historic documents, gets 7-year term for thefts

June 27, 2012

Barry H. Landau, the once-esteemed collector of presidential memorabilia, was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to seven years in federal prison for stealing thousands of historical documents from archives and libraries in Baltimore and elsewhere along the East Coast.

Landau, 64, was also ordered to pay about $46,000 in restitution. No sentencing date has been set for his accomplice, Jason James Savedoff, 25, who, like Landau, pleaded guilty to charges of theft of major artwork and conspiracy.

More than 10,000 “objects of cultural heritage” worth more than $1 million — including letters signed by George Washington, John Hancock, John Adams, Karl Marx, Marie Antoinette and Napoleon Bonaparte — were recovered from Landau’s Manhattan apartment, court records say.

The scheme unraveled last summer in Baltimore, when an employee of the Maryland Historical Society spotted Savedoff stealing a text from the city-based archive. Landau and Savedoff, who were both living in New York, were indicted in July and charged with taking dozens of documents and selling several of them, though prosecutors said there were thousands that were pilfered.

This spring, Paul Brachfeld, inspector general of the National Archives, said that Landau may have sold more of the national treasures than thought. Members of an Archival Recovery Team were trying to track down any items dealers may have bought from Landau.

The stolen documents:

●A four-page personal handwritten letter from John James Audubon to Gideon B. Smith, dated May 18, 1843, taken from the Connecticut Historical Society.

●A single-page letter from Marie Antoinette written in French on Oct. 2, 1784, taken from the Connecticut Historical Society.

●A letter written by Karl Marx on April 14, 1874, to P.H. King inquiring about the title and price of a book bearing Marx’s signature, taken from the Wilbur Collection at the University of Vermont Library.

●Inaugural addresses delivered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937, 1941 and 1945, taken from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, a division of the National Archives.

●A Baltimore City property receipt dated June 1, 1861, signed by Abraham Lincoln, granting land to Pvt. John Larn, a former member of the Maryland militia who served in the War of 1812. It was taken from the Maryland Historical Society.

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