Disgraced collector pleads guilty to stealing historical documents
The plea agreement says that the men sometimes visited historical societies dozens of times, "and used various methods" to steal the documents. That included secret pockets in sports coats and jackets, "as well as distracting museum curators to disguise their true intentions."

With a document in hand, federal prosecutors said, they removed inventory markings "by applying sandpaper and other abrasive materials to the document," a process they called "performing surgery." They used checklists to keep track of author and date, which collection it had come from, and whether a document had been scanned onto microfilm.

The prosecutors said Landau often avoided taking documents that had been put on microfilm because "of the increased possibility the theft … would be discovered by the library or repository."

Landau spent years building a public persona built around his collections, and was profiled by the Associated Press after he wrote a coffee table book on White House cuisine. The story described his apartment near Central Park as "artifact-filled," complete with etchings and presidential china.

Photo albums on Landau's websites show him posing with former presidents, Al Pacino and Charlton Heston. He has said that wives of presidents consulted him for inaugurations, and that he possessed more than a million presidential items, including 26,000 presidential menus and invitations.

The criminal charges shattered Landau's image and revealed a cash-strapped collector who, after his arrest, had to get the court to let him sell an Andy Warhol print of Elizabeth Taylor to pay his $2,700-a-month rent. In court documents, he claimed that he had $1,544 to his name, and that he made $11,000 in salary last year. Prosecutors said they were skeptical of his professed money woes.

peter.hermann@baltsun.com



Description of stolen documents



•A four-page personal handwritten letter from John Jay Audubon to Gideon B. Smith, dated May 18, 1843, taken from the Connecticut Historical Society.

•A single-page letter from Marie Antoinette written in French on Oct. 2, 1784, taken from the Connecticut Historical Society.

•A letter written by Karl Marx on April 14, 1874, to P.H. King inquiring about the title and price of a book bearing Marx's signature, taken from the Wilbur Collection at the University of Vermont Library.

•Inaugural address delivered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937, 1941 and 1945, taken from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, a division of the National Archives.

•A Baltimore City property receipt dated June 1, 1861, signed by Abraham Lincoln, granting land to Private John Larn, a former member of the Maryland militia who served in the War of 1812. It was taken from the Maryland Historical Society.

Source: Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office

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