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Feds reach out to dealers in stolen historic documents case

Federal investigators said Wednesday they are reaching out to collectors and dealers, hoping to find more historic documents stolen by a disgraced presidential memorabilia collector.

Barry Landau, 63, and his 24-year-old assistant, Jason Savedoff, both from New York City, pleaded guilty to theft of major artwork and conspiracy after their scheme to steal from archives in several states was exposed by Maryland Historical Society staffers last summer.

About 40 percent of more than 10,000 documents and objects seized from Landau’s Manhattan apartment have been traced back to libraries and other repositories around the country. But National Archives Inspector General Paul Brachfeld hopes dealers who are now questioning items purchased from Landau will help investigators recover even more stolen documents ahead of what they think will be a harsh sentencing in May.

“We would like dealers and collectors who may have purchased items from Mr. Landau to contact us before we have to contact them,” Brachfeld said.

Prosecutors said Landau schemed for years to steal valuable documents signed by historical figures from both sides of the Atlantic, including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Marie Antoinette and Charles Dickens. As part of his plea deal, Landau, who faces up to 10 years in prison, must also help investigators connect seized documents with their rightful owners and track down items he may have sold.

A sentencing date has not been set for Savedoff.

Dealers can return any stolen documents in their possession and help them maintain their reputations, Brachfeld said. They’ve had good results with dealers they’ve been in contact with already, he said.

Investigators also want to hear from people if they believe Landau or Savedoff stole anything from them, said Kelly Maltagliati, head of the Archival Recovery Team.

“We’re finding that that’s the case, that he has stolen from private individuals,” she said. “If they are victims and they want to claim restitution, they need to do that now or they’ll have to do it on their own.”