50 Years Later
In 1971, a 28-year-old local collector of old things found at barn sales and flea markets, oversaw historic restorations and antique shows. The man least likely to be suspected stole from the history museums, who loaned artifacts to be on display at the local celebrations honoring our history.
The case to find the stolen items remained unsolved for almost fifty years. When the man, then in his late 60s, began selling the artifacts, the cold case became warm. The people purchasing the items had notified the authorities and soon the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Art Crime Team was closing in on the thief.
The most significant item he sold that raised a red flag was a rare Revolutionary War era, 1775 Christian Oerter rifle, of which only two are known to still exist and the antique collector had sold one of the two. An appraisal valued the rifle at more than $175,000. The authorities didn’t disclose how much he had sold the rifle for.
At 78, the historian pleaded guilty to the disposal of an object of cultural heritage from a museum.
The U.S. District Attorney said,
“After four decades, justice finally caught up with this defendant.”
A U.S. Judge sentenced him to one day in prison, three years of supervised release—the first year to be spent in home confinement—ordered him to pay almost $50,000 in fines and restitution.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. FBI, Fox 29 Philadelphia, The Charlotte Observer, LehighValleyLive.com