Barry H. Landau and Jason James Savedoff Indicted on Federal Charges for Conspiring to Steal Valuable Historical Documents
Original Documents of Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt Allegedly Stolen from Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, New York Historical Society, and Maryland Historical Society; Nationwide Investigation Continues
Yesterday, a federal grand jury indicted Barry H. Landau, age 63, and Jason James Savedoff, a/k/a "Jason James," and "Justin Ward," age 24, both of New York, New York, for conspiring to steal historical documents from museums in Maryland and New York, and selling them for profit.
The defendants were expected to have an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher in courtroom 7C, today.
"The indictment alleges that Barry Landau and Jason James Savedoff conspired to steal irreplaceable historical documents from museums and sell them for personal profit," said United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. "This scheme, which was exposed thanks to a vigilant employee of the Maryland Historical Society, a quick response by the Baltimore Police Department and State's Attorney's Office and a swift investigation by the FBI, should send a wake-up call to museums that entrust valuable documents to persons who claim to be engaged in academic research."
Mr. Rosenstein added, "A nationwide federal investigation is continuing. I encourage anyone who has information about the acquisition or sale of historical items by the defendants to contact the FBI's Baltimore Division at 410-265-8080."
FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard McFeely said, "The federal government will provide a firm and swift response to those that steal parts of our nation's history for their own private benefit. Alleged crimes like this rob all Americans of the rich heritage that these museums preserve for present and future generations."
"The indictment returned today alleges that these two individuals alienated historic records from the holdings of the American people. We look forward to working with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office to further develop evidence of this criminal enterprise and recover holdings that were formally in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration and other respected institutions throughout the country. While our Archival Recovery Team has recovered thousands of records during my tenure, the scope and notoriety of what we have seized and secured in this case is truly breathtaking."
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Inspector General Paul Brachfeld of the National Archives and Records Administration - Office of Inspector General; Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III; and Baltimore City State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein.
The indictment alleges that from December 2010 through July 2011, Landau and Savedoff conspired to fraudulently obtain valuable documents and manuscripts from museums and other repositories, then sell the documents for their financial gain. Landau and Savedoff allegedly researched collections which contained valuable documents and manuscripts, prepared lists containing the names of historical figures and other noteworthy individuals, and made notations referencing the value of signatures and documents authored or signed by the listed individuals. Landau and Savedoff then allegedly visited museums and other repositories and accessed collections containing such historical documents, which the indictment alleges the defendants stole. The indictment also alleges that Landau contacted purchasers and re-sellers of historical documents, manuscripts and objects of cultural heritage in order to sell the stolen items.
Specifically, according to the indictment, on December 2, 2010, Landau and Savedoff stole a number of historical documents, including seven "reading copies" of speeches given by President Roosevelt, from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. Landau subsequently sold four of the speeches for $35,000. A "reading copy" is the copy of a presidential address from which a president of the United States read and which he signed or initialed, together with his handwritten notations.
Further, the indictment alleges that on March 17, 2011, Landau and Savedoff stole from the New York Historical Society a letter dated April 1, 1780, from Benjamin Franklin to John Paul Jones. On July 9, 2011, the defendants allegedly stole from the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society approximately 60 documents, including a land grant dated June 1, 1861 to a soldier from the Maryland Militia, War of 1812, signed by President Abraham Lincoln.
The defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy; and 10 years in prison for theft of the documents.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
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 are prosecuting the case.