Theft is among the biggest losses in the world to date, according to court documents.
Gregory Priore, former archivist of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, was originally charged with 10 counts, but pleaded guilty to theft of illegally taking and receiving stolen property. Both charges are serious crimes in Pennsylvania.
John Schulman, the owner of the Caliban bookstore, originally received 20 charges, but pleaded guilty to a charge of forgery in addition to theft by deception and receipt of stolen goods.
In a statement provided to CNN, Schulman’s lawyer, Albert Veverka, said his client “accepted the responsibility of his association with the books in circumstances in which he should have known that the books had probably been stolen.”
Priore’s lawyers, as well as the Carnegie Library, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The two will be sentenced on April 17 and could face fines, restitution and jail time, Veverka said.
Prosecutors alleged that the relationship between Priore and Schulman dates back to 1992 and lasted 25 years, until a member of the Carnegie Library staff auditing the Oliver Room of the museum, which houses its rare items, noted that some pieces were shattered or completely disappeared.
Subsequent investigation determined that 320 articles were missing and that 16 additional articles were “diminished”, which means that they were damaged beyond their original condition or a part of the entire work was missing.
Pall Mall Art Advisors, an independent art evaluation firm that was hired to assist in the investigation, evaluated the 336 affected items at $ 8.1 million in 2017.
PMAA President Anita Heriot declined to comment Monday night.
Among the most notable elements that disappeared was a copy signed in 1787 of the first edition of “De la France et des Etats-Unis” by Thomas Jefferson. The book was one of 14 items that PMAA found for sale at Caliban Book Shop, Schulman’s store.
Schulman allegedly sold items to various vendors and individuals over the years while housing others in a separate warehouse.
The researchers finally searched that store and found 42 items, 18 of which were “cannabalized” or damaged in some way that detracts from their initial value. They also found receipts dating back to 2000, with some items sold for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.
In addition to the 42 items in the warehouse, 37 items that were determined to be missing in the Oliver Room were found for sale on viaLibri, a website dedicated to the sale of rare or printed copies of books and other publications. PayPal records also found 171 transactions with 231 missing photographs sold through eBay.
Priore was fired from his job as an archivist in June 2017 and was arrested along with Schulman in July 2018.
What was recovered
The Pennsylvania statute of limitations for the charges lasts only five years, Veverka said, so the charges filed against Schulman and Priore only date to approximately 2012.
The defense challenges the long-standing relationship and did not accept responsibility for any type of agreement as part of the plea agreement. He also disagreed with the valuation of the missing property.
When the charges were filed in 2018, PMAA discovered that, among the recovered content, it was discovered that about $ 1.2 million of them were not missing or were obtained again. Although Jefferson’s book was among the missing items returned, it was not immediately clear if more lost material had been found since then.