FBI: Artifacts stolen from museums in 1960s, 1970s returned

Dec 19, 2021, 11:02 AM | Updated: 11:04 am

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Federal authorities say 15 historical artifacts stolen almost a half-century ago from a number of Pennsylvania museums have been returned to the institutions.

The FBI art crime team and other law enforcement agencies repatriated the 18th- and 19th-century rifles and pistols as well as a Native American silver concho belt in a ceremony Friday at the Museum of the American Revolution.

FBI art crime agents and detectives from the Upper Merion Township Police Department recovered the artifacts as part of an investigation into the 1971 theft and 2018 sale of a rare 1775 rifle made by Pennsylvania master gunsmith Christian Oerter, officials said.

Receiving the repatriated items were the American Swedish Historical Museum, the Hershey Story Museum (formerly the Hershey Museum), the Landis Valley Museum (formerly the Pennsylvania Farm Museum), the Mercer Museum, the Museum of the American Revolution, and York County History Center.

“We are incredibly grateful,” Valerie Seiber, The Hershey Story’s senior manager of historical collections and exhibitions, told PennLive.com. “It’s pretty amazing that after 50 years, these items have been recovered and returned. We’re very happy to have them back in our collection.” She said the items will be assessed, catalogued and stored but will not be put on display for the time being.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Thomas Gavin acknowledged having taken the artifacts during the 1960s and 1970s and keeping them in a barn for decades. Due in part to the statute of limitations, he couldn’t be charged in any of the thefts, the newspaper reported.

In the end, Gavin, 78, pleaded guilty only to one count of disposal of an object of cultural heritage stolen from a museum. He was sentenced to one day in jail and one year of house arrest and ordered to pay $23,485 restitution and a $25,000 fine, with the judge citing his advanced age and rapidly declining health.

“I’m sorry for all this trouble,” Gavin said during his sentencing last month, the Inquirer reported. “I never really thought about it back then, and now it’s all come out. I didn’t think it would make a hell of a lot of difference.”

“Tom is a collector of all manner of old things,” defense attorney Harvey Sernovitz said in court documents, the newspaper reported. “Every square inch of his barn is jammed full with a lifetime of things he bought at barn sales and flea markets … from old typewriters, sewing machines, clocks, steam engines and scales to old cars. … Whether he is considered a collector or a hoarder, profit was not his motivation.”

Historians have described the 5-foot 1775 Oerter rifle as a prime specimen of the “flintlock Kentucky long rifle,” popularized by frontiersmen like Daniel Boone. During the Revolutionary War, they enabled colonial soldiers to shoot more accurately and from farther away than their British counterparts, who carried smooth-bore muskets.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Chinese envoy expresses concern over US tariffs with Yellen

BEIJING (AP) — China’s envoy to trade war talks with Washington expressed concern about U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports during a phone call Tuesday with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the Ministry of Commerce announced, but it gave no indication of progress toward resolving an array of conflicts. Vice Premier Liu He and Yellen also discussed […]
23 hours ago
A woman wearing a face mask walks past a bank's electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index ...
Associated Press

Asia shares rise on optimism about easing COVID restrictions

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares advanced Monday across the board as buying set in after the lull of a U.S. national holiday. Analysts said the optimism may be driven by expectations the U.S. may decide to cut Chinese tariffs, a welcome move that would also help tame inflation. China’s Commerce Ministry said Tuesday that Vice […]
23 hours ago
A man paddles on a stand-up paddle board through a flooded street at Windsor on the outskirts of Sy...
Associated Press

Australian central bank boosts rate for 3rd month in a row

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s central bank on Tuesday lifted its benchmark interest rate for a third time in consecutive months, changing the cash rate to 1.35% from 0.85%. The Reserve Bank of Australia’s half a percentage point rise was the same size as its June increase. When the bank lifted the rate by a […]
23 hours ago
A woman wearing a face mask walks past a bank's electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index ...
Associated Press

Asia shares rise on optimism about easing COVID restrictions

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares advanced Monday across the board as buying set in after the lull of a U.S. national holiday. Analysts said the optimism may be driven by expectations the U.S. may decide to cut Chinese tariffs, a welcome move that would also help tame inflation. China’s Commerce Ministry said Tuesday that Vice […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach speaks in Leavenworth, Kan., on July 8, 2019. K...
Associated Press

Kobach looks for comeback in Kansas after losing 2 big races

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas voters have said no to him twice over the past four years. But Kris Kobach is nonetheless betting that this can be the year he makes a political comeback. His losses, including a 2018 defeat that handed the governor’s office in this Republican-leaning state to a Democrat, might end other […]
23 hours ago
Republican gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Brian Dahle, left, talks with fellow GOP state Sen. A...
Associated Press

Newsom’s opponent: I’m reasonable, not a ‘crazy Republican’

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Brian Dahle, the Republican Party’s longshot hope to unseat Gov. Gavin Newsom in California, knows that to win in his progressive home state he can’t allow Democrats to label him as an election denying, abortion-hating, gun-loving, bombastic right-winger. It’s why Dahle, an affable farmer and state senator from the sparsely populated […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
FBI: Artifacts stolen from museums in 1960s, 1970s returned