29 January 2008 by Published in: General News 13 comments

Hat tip to Rea Redd for bringing this sad story to my attention. It’s a shame that flogging is considered cruel and unusual punishment.

Man arrested in eBay sale of historic documents
Tue Jan 29, 2008

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New York state employee who had access to government-owned archives has been arrested on suspicion of stealing hundreds of historic documents, many of which he sold on eBay, authorities said on Monday.

Among the missing documents were an 1823 letter by U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun and copies of the Davy Crockett Almanacs, pamphlets written by the frontiersman who died at the Alamo in Texas.

Daniel Lorello, 54, of Rensselaer, New York, was charged with grand larceny, possession of stolen property and fraud. He pleaded innocent in Albany City Court on Monday.

He was found out by an alert history buff who saw the items posted on the online auction site and alerted authorities, the state attorney general’s office said in a statement.

Lorello, a department of education archivist, pleaded not guilty to the charges although he previously admitted in a written statement to stealing documents and artifacts since 2002. The attorney general’s office released a copy of his statement.

In 2007 alone, Lorello stated he took 300 to 400 items, including the four-page Calhoun letter, which drew bids of more than $1,700 while investigators were monitoring the sale.

Officials recovered some 400 items from his upstate New York home, which Lorello estimated was 90 percent of everything he had taken, but they have yet to determine how many items were sold online.

Other items Lorello admitted in his statement to stealing and selling included an 1835 Davey Crockett Almanac, which fetched $3,200, and a Poor Richard’s Almanac which went for $1,001.

EBay was cooperating with state officials in the probe.

The real tragedy of this is that I actually know Dan Lorello. A number of years ago, when I was writing my book Little Phil, the issue of whether Phil Sheridan had been born in Albany, NY arose. I knew Dan from having him help me with getting materials from the papers of William Woods Averell for a prior book project, and I wanted to see what records there were of Sheridan’s possible birth in Albany, which is what Sheridan himself claimed. Dan did some digging for me and confirmed what I suspected, which is that no such records existed (for good reason–Sheridan was born in Ireland, and those records do, in fact, exist). Later, I wanted to include a photo of the equestrian monument to Sheridan that sits outside the state capitol building in Albany in the book, and Dan took that photo for me. In fact, the photo in the book is credited to him.

To say that I’m profoundly disappointed does not do it justice. I never would have guessed that Dan would be the sort to do this kind of thing, but then again, nobody ever really knows….

All I know is that Dan deserves whatever he gets in the way of punishment, and that whatever that might be, it’s not enough.

Scridb filter


  1. dan
    Tue 29th Jan 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Yes, this is a disgusting thing. Dan ought to be punished according to the rule of law, etc. However, why do folks insist on using the term “buff” when talking about people who are interested in history! It’s really aggravating!

  2. Tue 29th Jan 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Yes, this makes me sick and mad. Anyone who steals from an archive–including our former presidential advisor Sandy Berger, who got off with a slap of the wrist–should be drawn and quartered. Then they should be forced to spend a week with my mother-in-law.


  3. Tue 29th Jan 2008 at 11:50 pm

    OH MY GOD – Ted’s Mother-in-law!!!!

    Seriously, he should be cut up, and all the pieces shot. He has stolen from every citizen and our national heritage. No, whatever he gets won’t be enough.

    And I certainly hope they can recover all the sold items. Lord only knows how much Americana the public trust has lost.


  4. Art Bergeron
    Wed 30th Jan 2008 at 9:44 am

    Have you heard any rumors about the possibility of his having stolen documents from other archives or libraries? Something along that order came through our facility yesterday. As far as I can tell, he was never a researcher at MHI.

  5. Wed 30th Jan 2008 at 11:52 am


    No, I haven’t.


  6. Christ Liebegott
    Wed 30th Jan 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Eric, Last night one cable news channel reported that Mr. Lerello did this in order to pay off his daughter’s $10K credit card debt. While this does not mitigate his actions, it may indicate some personal problems that lead good people to do bad things. I’m sure he will pay for his poor judgment and stupidity.

  7. Valerie Protopapas
    Wed 30th Jan 2008 at 3:12 pm

    I certainly agree that the crime is egregious in nature, especially as the man knows the value of what he purloined.

    However, there are two points here. First there are people who commit violent crimes which destroy life or who defraud the public to the tune of millions of dollars (often destroying the retirement investments of thousands of people) who are seldom punished to the extent that their crimes justly demand. This man certainly betrayed the public trust, but not nearly as badly nor to the destructive extent to which say the executives at Enron did.

    Secondly, I believe that this act by a man who probably would never have considered doing such a thing under ordinary circumstances illustrates of what little value history is held in the nation. One poster referred to the word ‘buff’ as a modifier to the word ‘history’ as insulting, but it, too illustrates that people who are interested in history are considered either outside the mainstream or esoteric ‘dabblers’ in a study that really has no value except to those who have an interest in it.

    One has to doubt that the gentleman involved would have purloined newly minted coins if he worked in the mint or newly printed greenbacks if he worked in the Treasury Department. Why? Because no one in the culture underestimates the value of money. On the other hand, I have seen priceless historical objects offered for sale by their actual owners going to collectors to be forever lost to public view. One friend and fellow Mosby fanatic told me that the window in Lakeland house which contained the bullet hole from the projectile that wounded Mosby in December, 1864, had been removed from the house and sold on eBay for over $3,000! Now, I am not against people owning ‘bits of history’ – private property is, after all, the central theme of the founding of this nation – but to my mind, that particular ‘bit’ should have been put in some museum not only because it is irreplaceable, but because it is fragile and probably will not survive its current ownership. Once it’s gone, of course, it’s gone forever.

    I do not excuse the man involved but I also believe that dealing as he does with historical artifacts, he probably more than many knows with in what little value these objects are held by the public and their ‘servants’, the politicians. What library with an historical collection doesn’t know how difficult it is to get funding to preserve that collection or to make it available to the public? And how much ‘public interest’ is there with the exception of the occasional researcher in doing so? Ergo, what does it matter, one might think, if a piece or two ‘goes missing’? Who would know? More importantly, who would care??

    This act brings to light far more than one man’s unfortunate fall from grace and lapse of ethics. It brings to light the fact that our culture has to get its priorities straight. Instead of Lindsay Lohan and Michael Strayhan being objects of public interest and concern, Americans have to rededicate themselves to a study of history in order to find more important issues, better ‘heroes’ and higher ideals. As well, a study of history will bring to light our past mistakes from which we SHOULD as a people learn lest, as Santayana cogently pointed out, we be doomed to repeat them.

    Therefore, if this sort of thing is to be ‘discouraged’ in the future, besides bringing home to the criminal the seriousness of his crime, it would be well to treat with greater care those things which many today view as being without appreciable value.

  8. David Lowe
    Wed 30th Jan 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Sorry. What does this have to do with Enron? And the public does not appreciate the value of history, therefore history can be skimmed off and sold? Distorted logic. Metal detector hobbyists loot from the historic record every day. This is incidental. Then you have those who systematically raid historic sites with metal detectors wearing night-vision goggles for money. This is malicious. Flogging is a good compromise between being drawn-and-quartered and summary execution.

    Working at Bentonville NC years ago, we encountered a gentleman, ex-military, coming across a field with his metal detector (with landowner permission), very excited that he had found “clusters of Spencer casings.” He had about three hundred in a bucket. But because he did not record the location of his finds, he had essentially obliterated the Union army’s skirmish line which could have helped rewrite the history of the battle. Picket holes, a certain unit, each man firing a certain number of rounds … lost to historians … dropped into a BUCKET. This is what happens when history becomes a commodity.

  9. Valerie Protopapas
    Wed 30th Jan 2008 at 11:55 pm

    I should think what “Enron” has to do with it is obvious if you bothered to read my post. The man broke the law, I agree, but surely his ‘crime’ is nowhere near in degree that of the rapist, murderer or the thief who steals millions and destroys lives. Punish him? Certainly. But there has to be a certain amount of proportion involved.

    My other point was the fact that history is not valued. Do you ACTUALLY believe that I therefore find no problem with what happened as you obviously stated? Again, you cannot have read my post the point of which was more than obvious. More value given to history, less probability for people like this fellow to feel that he’s merely ‘skimming off” some unappreciated and unvalued dusty piece of information forever doomed to stay in some drawer until a ‘history buff’ choses to look at it.

    Finally, the man who had permission to look for metal objects etc. HAD PERMISSION to look and to take what he found. That he didn’t record where he found them is probably unfortunate, but let’s face it, just about every inch of Virginia was some sort of skirmish line at some point or other. It is one thing to appreciate history, it is another (as The General pointed out about the plans to build commercial enterprises on outskirts of the Gettysburg battlefield) to worship it to the point at which no one should do ANYTHING lest some historic artifact to moved (or discovered).

    I had hoped to bring to light the sad state of our culture in which history is considered a pastime for dilettantes or ‘buffs’. Apparently either the point was not taken or, having been taken, was considered irrelevant.

  10. Archivist
    Sat 02nd Feb 2008 at 7:07 pm

    Mr. Lowe,

    Valerie has an excellent point about Enron. It all has to do with ethics and it would appear that Dan Lorello’s actions, to say the least, were utterly unethical. It is inconceivable to think that a man in a highly respected position in state government could actually think he would get away with what he did. He worked for the government for 29 years, built up a good pension and only had one year to retirement – now it’s for nothing because he has ruined his life.

  11. Phil LeDuc
    Thu 27th Mar 2008 at 3:49 am

    Eric –

    Your readers might like to know that there is a good piece on this general subject now in the April, 2008 of Smithsonian magazine. The theft of documents from the National Archives that was uncovered by the Thomas brothers serves as a focal point for the article.

    Best wishes again for the soon-to-be-released book.
    My copy is on pre-order.

Comments are closed.

Copyright © Eric Wittenberg 2011, All Rights Reserved
Powered by WordPress