Jail for woman who plundered famous photo prints
A York County woman was sentenced to 9 to 23 months in prison Thursday for a mass art theft from the award-winning Chester County photographer who snapped National Geographic’s famous Afghan Girl portrait.
Bree DeStephano, 33, of York, pleaded guilty in April to three felony charges related to theft and conspiracy for stealing more than $650,000 worth of prints and books by Steve McCurry.
“This defendant engaged in a calculated, systemic theft from her trusted employer,” said Chester County First Assistant District Attorney Michael Noone. “Her actions affected Steve McCurry’s hard-earned reputation around the world as a premier photographer and artist.”
DeStephano also was ordered to pay nearly $215,000 in restitution, which will go to McCurry’s charity ImagineAsia, and was sentenced to 10 years of probation following her prison time.
She may serve her jail sentence in York County, where she lives and works, and will be eligible for work release. She is an office manager at a law firm in York County, said Dan Bush, her attorney.
“From the beginning of this matter, Ms. DeStephano admitted to her actions and was apologetic for them,” Bush said. “While harsh, the Court’s sentence acknowledges both of those [things] and permits her to maintain the career that she has fought hard to develop since admitting her wrongdoings.”
DeStephano was accused in June 2015 of working with a Colorado art dealer to sell McCurry’s prints and split the profits while she was a manager at the photographer’s Exton studio.
The thefts included nine or 10 stolen prints of Afghan Girl, most of them valued at $12,500; one $50,000 print, and more than 200 books of McCurry’s work. Afghan Girl, which appeared on the cover of National Geographic in June 1985, was an iconic portrait of a young, green-eyed refugee in Pakistan.
Authorities last year said DeStephano and her accomplice made somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000 by reselling the stolen work. She claimed she made $34,000, Noone said.
McCurry’s photos from across the globe are regularly printed in National Geographic and other major magazines around the world.