Jason James Savedoff Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Steal Valuable Historical Documents
Original Documents of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, John Adams, Franklin Roosevelt, and Others Stolen from Historical Societies and Museums
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 27, 2011|
BALTIMORE—Jason James Savedoff, a/k/a “Jason James,” and “Justin Ward,” age 24, of New York, New York, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to steal historical documents from museums in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut and selling them for profit.
The guilty plea 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.
Inspector General Brachfeld said, “I want to thank the Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero, and those employees of the National Archives and Records Administration who supported the agents in the conduct of this investigation.”
According to his plea agreement, from December 2010 through July 2011, Savedoff and his co-conspirator stole and otherwise fraudulently obtained valuable documents and manuscripts from numerous museums, including the Maryland Historical Society, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Connecticut Historical Society, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, a component of the National Archives. Document and manuscript collections at these museums were targeted based on the content of the collections or the potential monetary value of the contents.
Savedoff admitted that he and his co-conspirator 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. Savedoff, under the direction of his co-conspirator, conducted research, including via the internet, to identify collections containing valuable documents, which, when located, were targeted for theft. Savedoff also used aliases when he visited certain libraries to protect the ongoing criminal scheme.
According to his plea, Savedoff and his co-conspirator visited numerous museums posing as researchers; accessed collections of documents which they had determined to be of significant value; reviewed the documents from the collections; and used various techniques to steal them. These techniques included concealing documents inside sports coats and other outerwear which had been modified to contain hidden pockets, as well as distracting museum curators to disguise their actions. Once a document had been stolen, steps were taken to remove any marking or inventory control notations made on the document. A checklist was prepared for each stolen document which identified the author and date of the document; the collection from which it was stolen; whether the museum card catalogue had been collected; whether there existed any microfilm or other “finding aid” for the document at the museum; the nature of any markings on the document: and whether any museum markings had been removed from the document. In an effort to conceal the theft, Savedoff and his co-conspirator often took the card catalogue entries and other “finding aids,” making it difficult for the museum to discover that an item was missing.
Specifically, according to his plea, on July 9, 2011, Savedoff and his co-conspirator visited the Maryland Historical Society, where the co-conspirator had already provided the curators with a list of boxes he wished to review, stating that he was performing research for a book. Savedoff and the co-conspirator accessed the various document and manuscript collections. The conspirators attempted to distract the museum staff and shield their efforts to steal documents. Their actions concerned the curators, who summoned the police because they believed that documents were being improperly handled and possibly stolen. Savedoff had the key to one of the museum lockers, where officers discovered a a computer bag containing 79 stolen documents. A review of the documents by curators revealed that 60 documents had been removed from the Maryland Historical Society, including a land grant dated June 1, 1861, to a soldier from the Maryland Militia, War of 1812, signed by President Abraham Lincoln. The remaining 19 documents contained markings which identified them as being from collections maintained at the Connecticut Historical Society and other institutions. Other documents which Savedoff admits were stolen, and which were recovered during the investigation, include documents signed by George Washington, John Adams, Franklin Roosevelt, Marie Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte, and others.
Savedoff faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy; and 10 years in prison for theft of the documents. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake has scheduled sentencing for February 10, 2012, at 2:30 p.m.
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.