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Insider theft – Drew University student admits stealing historic documents from school

BY LAURA BRUNO • STAFF WRITER • JANUARY 5, 2011
A former Drew University student pleaded guilty this week to stealing valuable historical documents from the university’s United Methodist Archives Center while working there as a paid student assistant.
William Scott, of Longmeadow, Mass., admitted Tuesday in U.S. District Court to stealing a number of items from the archives, including letters from presidents of the United States and a 1766 letter written by one of the founders of Methodism, which is worth about $5,000. Scott also had sold a number of the documents to historical document dealers in the U.S. and abroad, according to the three-page plea agreement.
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Scott, an 18-year-old Drew freshman at the time of the thefts, was a paid student assistant from October 2009 to March 2010 in the archives, home to the official archival repository for The United Methodist Church. The center houses about 145 letters of John and Charles Wesley, founders of Methodism, valued on the open market at between $5,000 and $12,000 per letter. In addition, the center stores letters written by Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower to Methodist bishops.
Neither Scott nor his attorney could be reached for comment.
Nearly all of the items stolen have been recovered and Drew University has since tightened security procedures at the archival center, said Drew spokesman David Muha.
A total of 31 letters and a small wooden box had been taken and all but the second page of a letter were recovered by the FBI, Muha said.
The only item still missing is the second page of a 1755 letter written by Charles Wesley, Muha said. The center does have a scanned copy of the full letter, preserving at least the contents of the entire document, he said.
Following the thefts, Drew tightened its security measures while still allowing access to historical documents, Muha said.
“The documents in the collection exist to be used,” Muha said. “It would be easy to lock them and store them away … that would defeat the purpose of a university collecting them in the first place.”
The center’s most valuable items, including the ones Scott stole, have been relocated to an internal one-room artifact vault with access restricted to select staff members, Muha said. Student staff working in the archival center now are required to leave their coats and bags in a processing room outside the archives, he said.
“The care of special material is an essential trust, but it should not preclude the singular delight that only comes in working with the special volume — seeing its size, feeling its heft, turning the pages, smelling its aroma, inspecting the watermarks, reveling in the binding, illustrations, and illumination, and enjoying the perfection of ink on paper,” added Andrew Scrimgeour, Drew’s dean of libraries in a prepared statement.
Scott’s plea agreement does not recommend a possible sentence. The sentencing guidelines, which are merely advisory and not mandatory, carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. A preliminary date of April 15 has been set for a sentencing hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Renee Marie Bumb.
Staff at the archives began to investigate a theft when they were tipped off by a phone call from a United Kingdom-based dealer who received damaged documents that were sent in an unprofessional and unprotected manner, according to the original complaint filed by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman. The center conducted a review of their Wesley letters and found at least two dozen had been stolen.
The FBI then executed a search warrant in Scott’s dorm room at Drew and found a folder with six Wesley letters and 11 other historical documents in a dresser drawer in Scott’s closet. The documents recovered included letters from Presidents Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Eisenhower.

Drew University student admits stealing historic documents from schoolhttp://www.dailyrecord.com/article/20110105/UPDATES01/301050013/Drew-University-student-admits-stealing-historic-documents-from-schoolBY LAURA BRUNO • STAFF WRITER • JANUARY 5, 2011
A former Drew University student pleaded guilty this week to stealing valuable historical documents from the university’s United Methodist Archives Center while working there as a paid student assistant.
William Scott, of Longmeadow, Mass., admitted Tuesday in U.S. District Court to stealing a number of items from the archives, including letters from presidents of the United States and a 1766 letter written by one of the founders of Methodism, which is worth about $5,000. Scott also had sold a number of the documents to historical document dealers in the U.S. and abroad, according to the three-page plea agreement.
Scott, an 18-year-old Drew freshman at the time of the thefts, was a paid student assistant from October 2009 to March 2010 in the archives, home to the official archival repository for The United Methodist Church. The center houses about 145 letters of John and Charles Wesley, founders of Methodism, valued on the open market at between $5,000 and $12,000 per letter. In addition, the center stores letters written by Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower to Methodist bishops.
Neither Scott nor his attorney could be reached for comment.
Nearly all of the items stolen have been recovered and Drew University has since tightened security procedures at the archival center, said Drew spokesman David Muha.
A total of 31 letters and a small wooden box had been taken and all but the second page of a letter were recovered by the FBI, Muha said.
The only item still missing is the second page of a 1755 letter written by Charles Wesley, Muha said. The center does have a scanned copy of the full letter, preserving at least the contents of the entire document, he said.
Following the thefts, Drew tightened its security measures while still allowing access to historical documents, Muha said.
“The documents in the collection exist to be used,” Muha said. “It would be easy to lock them and store them away … that would defeat the purpose of a university collecting them in the first place.”The center’s most valuable items, including the ones Scott stole, have been relocated to an internal one-room artifact vault with access restricted to select staff members, Muha said. Student staff working in the archival center now are required to leave their coats and bags in a processing room outside the archives, he said.
“The care of special material is an essential trust, but it should not preclude the singular delight that only comes in working with the special volume — seeing its size, feeling its heft, turning the pages, smelling its aroma, inspecting the watermarks, reveling in the binding, illustrations, and illumination, and enjoying the perfection of ink on paper,” added Andrew Scrimgeour, Drew’s dean of libraries in a prepared statement.
Scott’s plea agreement does not recommend a possible sentence. The sentencing guidelines, which are merely advisory and not mandatory, carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. A preliminary date of April 15 has been set for a sentencing hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Renee Marie Bumb.
Staff at the archives began to investigate a theft when they were tipped off by a phone call from a United Kingdom-based dealer who received damaged documents that were sent in an unprofessional and unprotected manner, according to the original complaint filed by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman. The center conducted a review of their Wesley letters and found at least two dozen had been stolen.
The FBI then executed a search warrant in Scott’s dorm room at Drew and found a folder with six Wesley letters and 11 other historical documents in a dresser drawer in Scott’s closet. The documents recovered included letters from Presidents Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Eisenhower.

http://www.dailyrecord.com/article/20110105/UPDATES01/301050013/Drew-University-student-admits-stealing-historic-documents-from-school

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