NY men charged in Md. presidential artifacts theft

July 11, 2011 - 6:14 PM
Presidential Artifacts Theft

This photo provided by the Baltimore Police Dept. shows Jason Savedoff . Savedoff is one of two New York City men charged with stealing millions of dollars in documents from the Maryland Historical Society. (AP Photo/Baltimore Police Dept.)

BALTIMORE (AP) — A published presidential historian was one of two men caught with millions of dollars in documents from the Maryland Historical Society, including some signed by President Abraham Lincoln, according to court documents.

Baltimore police charged Barry Landau, 63, and Jason Savedoff, 24, both of New York City, on Saturday with theft of more than $100,000 and they were ordered held on Monday. The FBI is involved in the investigation under a federal statute that covers thefts from museums.

An employee told police he had been watching Savedoff and Landau for several hours, believing their behavior to be suspicious. He called police after he saw Savedoff conceal a document in a portfolio and walk it out of the library, according to court documents.

A search of a locker at the building that Savedoff was carrying a key to turned up 60 documents. That included papers signed by Lincoln worth $300,000, numerous presidential inaugural ball invitations and programs worth $500,000, a signed Statue of Liberty commemoration valued at $100,000 and a signed Washington monument commemoration valued at $100,000, court documents state.

Court records do not list attorneys for the men. A message was left at a number listed for Landau and no listing could be found for Savedoff.

Landau had signed out many of the documents police found in Savedoff's bag in the locker. Staff told police that the dozens of other documents had about the same value.

Photocopies of all the historical papers were made and the originals were returned to the historical society.

An Associated Press story written in 2007 when Landau's "The President's Table: Two Hundred Years of Dining and Diplomacy" was published notes that he was working on a trilogy was to be followed by a history of inaugurations and a volume on presidential style. The story describes vintage black and white etchings of 19th-century inaugurations on the walls of his Manhattan high-rise apartment, a cabinet displaying presidential mugs, plates, goblets and a skeleton key that fit the front door of the White House during John Adams' administration and a wall of inscribed photos of presidents.

There are careful rules dictating the procedures for viewing documents in the library and people may only check one set of documents out of the stacks at once, according to society President Burt Kummerow. First-time visitors must complete a registration form and present current photo identification and researchers must sign in and out during each visit, according to the society's website. What happened is a reminder of the value of the documents at the library, he said.

"It is one of the older libraries in the United State and is wonderful record of the story of the early United States and right up to the present," Kummerow said.