Author visits archives for ‘research’, then steals artifacts to sell on eBay, US feds say


The 49-year-old author of an array of books about Montana has pleaded guilty to theft of major artwork, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana said in a July 9 news release. — Designed by Freepik

A man pretended to be conducting research at the Montana Historical Society, then he stole century-old artifacts and sold them on eBay, federal officials said.

The 49-year-old author of an array of books about Montana has pleaded guilty to theft of major artwork, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana said in a July 9 news release.

McClatchy News reached out to the man’s attorney for comment July 10 and did not immediately receive a response.

“We are following this case closely, and appreciate the effort of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in this matter,” a spokesperson for the Montana Historical Society told McClatchy News on July 10. “We anticipate that justice will be served.”

The New Mexico author has written books about Montana’s history, and from roughly April 2022 to September 2023, he said he was doing research in order to gain access to the Helena-based historical society’s archives, federal officials said in an indictment.

During these research visits, he’s accused of stealing “objects of cultural heritage” from the museum, including letters written by the wife of a famous Western artist, Charlie “C.M.” Russell.

Then he listed the items on eBay, officials said.

One of the items dated back to 1887, before Montana gained statehood, according to records in the indictment. Other items included a flag and program from the 1889 Montana Society of the Framers of the Constitution, a 1905 Centennial Brewing Letter and 1907 mining company stock certificates, officials said.

He sold at least 10 of these items from September 2022 to March 2023 until an undercover FBI agent pretended to be interested in buying one of the items to confirm the accused seller’s identity, officials said.

The US Attorney’s Office didn’t include how much money the man gained from the sales but said the items were worth at least US$5,000.

He was initially indicted on 10 charges and pleaded guilty to one, for which he faces up to 10 years in prison, officials said. He’s expected to be sentenced Nov 13. – The Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service

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