insider theft: Secret revealed in historic document theft case


11:52 PM EDT, April 20, 2008
Even as the prosecution continues of the former director of the Theodore Roosevelt Association in the theft of historic letters, a surprising revelation has surfaced:

The Oyster Bay organization was ripped off before, but at that time managed to keep it quiet.

Former director Edward Renehan Jr. of Rhode Island, who is accused in the theft of four historic letters, provided information earlier this month that made public secret information about the prior case, according to people involved in the new case.

When Bonnie Jean Gable was TRA office manager about 15 years ago, she was accused of embezzling more than $100,000 to finance a theater group, sources said. Rather than prosecute Gable, who had spent the money and had few assets, the TRA agreed to place a lien on trust funds Gable stood to inherit.

The association and Renehan also tried to negotiate a settlement, the TRA and Renehan’s lawyer said. The TRA wanted him to make restitution and return other artifacts the group believes are still in his possession. But Renehan maintains he has no other artifacts, so the TRA went to the Nassau County district attorney’s office, and Renehan was indicted last month for stealing a letter written in 1918 by Roosevelt. He is due back in court today.

The Gable case became public when a statement prepared by a Manhattan publicist was sent to Renehan friends who heard about the letter investigations.

Several of an estimated 20 people who received the e-mail passed it on to the association, which says it is investigating whether it can take legal action against Renehan.

“We are deeply disturbed that Mr. Renehan misappropriated Theodore Roosevelt Association property and now has inappropriately disclosed confidential information,” TRA president James Bruns said. “This is yet another example of his abuse of trust and continuing misconduct.”

Peter Brill, Renehan’s attorney, said release of information about Gable was “unauthorized by myself or by Ed Renehan.” But he added that “it makes you wonder why the TRA chose to quietly settle a larceny … while they chose to criminally prosecute Mr. Renehan.”

Bruns responded that “unlike Mr. Renehan, Ms. Gable admitted everything, made no demands and came up with a credible way of reimbursing the association.” In contrast, “Renehan’s negotiations were focused on his attempts to gain the best possible deal, using the documents taken from the association … as well as items still in his possession as bargaining chips.”

Brill said before negotiations ended, “Renehan offered to … give them whatever they wanted — full restitution, full cooperation, with no conditions whatsoever.”

Gable had a stroke four years ago and lives in an adult home in Lee, Mass., said her brother, Patrick, a Pittsfield, Mass., attorney. “My sister fully cooperated,” he said. “The TRA will be reimbursed” the full value of his sister’s share of the trust, which is already worth more than the $300,000 the TRA anticipated.