11 February 2008 by Published in: General musings 3 comments

On January 29, I reported on the arrest of Daniel Lorello, an archivist employed by the State of New York, who stole hundreds of documents and then sold many of them on eBay.

Then, J.D. Petruzzi reported that he had been contacted by the New York Attorney General’s office because he had apparently purchased a stolen document from Lorello on eBay. J.D. figured he was out the money, but he was ready to return the document to the archives, where it rightfully belongs.

Now, because eBay has decided to do the right thing, it looks like J. D. will get his money back.

EBay To Buy Back Stolen Historical Items, Michael Gormley, Associated Press, February 9, 2008.

Documents dating from the Civil War and others to and from Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt are among hundreds of stolen documents sold online that eBay is agreeing to buy back and return to New York’s archives, a state official said Saturday.

The online auction giant has no liability in the sale of the stolen artifacts, but agreed voluntarily to offer buyers the amount that they paid, according to the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because not all details of the investigation have been announced. “We believe that when people realize they bought stolen artifacts they will step forward and do the right thing,” the state official said. The official said the buyers appear not to have known the documents were stolen and so wouldn’t face criminal charges. Cuomo and eBay will contact the buyers, the state official said.

In January, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s investigation found that about 200 documents had been stolen from the archives and sold in the past two years. Checking through the buyer and seller comments in those eBay sales revealed that 200 other documents had been sold since 2001, according to the official. The total cost of buying back the documents for which eBay has sales records is estimated at $68,000. The offer by eBay means the state won’t have to spend money to buy the records. If there is a conviction, a court could order restitution. Usher Lieberman, an eBay spokesman, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

In January, Cuomo charged Daniel Lorello, 54, an archives and records management specialist in the state Department of Education, with stealing items from the archives. Lorello, of Rensselaer near Albany, pleaded not guilty to charges of grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and scheme to defraud and was released awaiting trial. He faces up to 25 years in prison. Among the items stolen were Davy Crockett Almanacs—popular 19th century pamphlets about the frontier hero’s exploits—that sold for more than $5,000; artifacts associated with the Revolutionary, Civil and Mexican wars, black Americana and items related to both Roosevelts and to Jewish Americans.

The state was alerted to the theft and sales by a history buff, Virginia attorney Joseph Romito, who noticed the sale on eBay of a four-page letter by former Vice President John Calhoun that he knew belonged to the New York State Library and Archives. That letter was sold for $1,800.

I really respect that eBay is willing to do this, and I’m glad that no innocent purchaser who unwittingly bought one of these stolen documents from Lorello is going to end up taking a loss. That’s a great outcome, and perhaps it will assist in assuring that all of the stolen documents are returned to New York, where they belong.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Mon 11th Feb 2008 at 10:27 pm

    Indeed kudos to eBay. I definitely figured the amount I paid for the document (a signed document by Gen. George Stoneman) was gone. However, as you state, I was ready to send it back without a second thought – it belongs to the people, not me.

    eBay did not have to do what they’ve offered, so they have certainly gone above and beyond.

    I hear that most of what Lorello stole has been located/returned, and I hope they’re able to get it all.

    J.D.

  2. Tue 12th Feb 2008 at 3:59 pm

    I still think part of the punishment for Lorello should be twenty years cleaning pigeon droppings from cannons and monuments…. with only a small toothbrush.

  3. Tue 12th Feb 2008 at 9:38 pm

    – Held in his mouth perhaps… hands tied behind his back.

    Fitting.

    J.D.

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