LI museum director sentenced for Egyptian artifact theft
By MITCHEL MADDUX
Last Updated: 4:14 PM, October 15, 2010
Posted: 4:13 PM, October 15, 2010
The former director of a Long Island museum who stole Egyptian artifacts from the institution’s collection — and later sold the rare antiquities through Christie’s auction house — was sentenced today to serve time in federal prison.
Barry Stern, who headed Long Island University’s Hillwood Museum, was sentenced to serve one year and a day behind bars and slapped with a $5,000 fine during a hearing in Central Islip’s federal court.
To disguise his theft from the museum, which is located on the university’s C.W. Post campus in Brookville, L.I.., Stern deleted files concerning the nine objects from the museum’s computer database.
He then delivered them to Christie’s in August 2008 to be sold on consignment. Catalogs from the auction house described the precious objects as coming “from the Collection of Barry Stern.”
Among the antiquities that Stern furnished to Christie’s was a bronze statuette depicting Apis, a bull that in ancient Egypt was kept in lavish accommodations, watched constantly for signs of divine messages, and consulted in efforts to foretell the future. The figure is believed to have been created sometime between 712 to 332 B.C.
Another piece stolen was a limestone Shabti, a type of funerary figurine often buried in tombs with the dead, with the belief that they would perform tasks for the deceased in their afterlife.
When confronted by the FBI last year, Stern initially claimed that the Egyptian antiquities has been gifts from his parents.
Stern, who was a university employee for 22 years, stole the artifacts around the time his contract as the museum’s director was terminated. He eventually confessed, saying his motivation for the theft was to exact revenge against the university for his perceived mistreatment while an employee there.
Auction house records showed that eight of the pieces sold at auction and netted $51,500. The proceeds were deposited in Stern’s personal accounts, prosecutors said.
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