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.
The state library’s extensive collection includes an original first draft of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and complete set of autographs from the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
EBay auctions posted by Lorello included a Currier & Ives lithograph that he described as “in excellent condition.” The Calhoun letter auction said “100 percent satisfaction is guaranteed.”
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.
Editing by Daniel Trotta and Eric Walsh