Scam: Barry Landau leaves court in Baltimore today after being sentenced to seven years in prison for stealing thousands of documents from historical societies and libraries
But the stolen artifacts also include smaller items such as photographs of President Calvin Coolidge and World Series baseball tickets from 1949. The earliest document dates from 1479.
"Barry Landau, simply put, tried to steal history for his personal benefit and financial gain. His actions breached a trust once enjoyed, but now lost, between researcher and museum," prosecutors wrote in a document submitted to the court before Landau's sentencing.
Prosecutors recommended a nine-year sentence and said it is likely Landau had stolen items as early as 2003.
Landau told the judge in a brief statement before he was sentenced that he was "deeply ashamed" and "embarrassed" by his actions. Standing with the assistance of a cane, he said he hoped one day to "redeem himself."
In a plea agreement signed in February, Landau acknowledged that he and his now 25-year-old assistant Jason Savedoff visited historical archives in order to steal. They would distract staff, sometimes with cookies and donuts, and simultaneously stuff valuable documents into secret pockets in their clothing. On Wednesday, prosecutors displayed a tan trench coat and navy blazer in court, both of them specially altered by Landau's tailor to contain deep pockets.
The pair, who referred to each other as "weasel 1" and "weasel 2," attempted to cover up the thefts by removing card catalog listings for the items and using sandpaper and other methods to remove museum markings, a process they called "performing surgery."