Federal prosecutors in Baltimore this week approved the sale of a Liz Taylor print — aptly titled "Liz" — and several other artifacts from the private collection of Barry H. Landau, who's accused of stealing historic documents from museums on both sides of the Atlantic.
Landau's lawyers had asked last month that their client be allowed to liquidate some of his prized assets to pay for "living expenses" — including $2,700 per month in rent for his Manhattan apartment — while he's out on bail awaiting trial in the city's U.S. District Court.
Landau, 63, and his alleged accomplice, 24-year-old Jason Savedoff, were arrested in Baltimore this summer after a Maryland Historical Society employee said he saw the younger man swipe a document. Prosecutors have since said that the theft scheme may have gone on for decades and encompasses thousands of invaluable texts written by historic figures from Abraham Lincoln to Sir Isaac Newton.
Investigators have removed more than 10,000 documents from Landau's apartment, and 2,000 of them have been traced back to "libraries and other repositories from which these items were stolen," Assistant U.S. Attorney James G. Warwick wrote in a court document filed Thursday.
A lot of his things were left behind, however, including artwork, furnishings and various memorabilia. Those are the things Landau now wants to sell, claiming he acquired them as gifts or purchases.
Prosecutors said they examined a handful of the goods — including the Warhol, some sterling silver flatware, a few coin collections and several other pieces of art — and approved them for sale after determining that they probably weren't stolen.
"The United States has no information that the items … do not belong to Landau," Warwick said in the court filing. He asked that any sale proceeds be placed in an escrow account monitored by the court and defense attorneys, who can make sure that Landau doesn't "deplete his assets" before the close of the case. Warwick wants to ensure that Landau has funds available to pay restitution if he's convicted.
Warwick also asked that the sale of other Landau items (jewelry, Presidential inaugural medals and a pair of silver lamps) be put on hold "until additional information, or photographs, can be vetted by investigators."
Their sale is secondary anyway, said defense attorney Andrew C. White. The "Liz" print is Landau's only item of real value and is appraised by Christie's Auction House at up to $60,000, according to court records.
"If the Warhol sells, it will probably be enough" for Landau to get by, White said. "This is necessary so he can pay for his daily expenses of living. He doesn't have the money."
Landau had roughly $1,500 to his name when he was arrested, according to his bank account balances discussed in court. But prosecutors have said they believe he's stashed money somewhere.
They've accused him in court documents of selling at least four copies of Franklin D. Roosevelt's annotated inaugural addresses for $35,000 over the years and are looking for other treasures that may have been put on the black market.
Both Landau and Savedoff have pleaded not guilty to the charges, though Savedoff is scheduled to be rearraigned later this month, signaling that he plans to enter another plea.