August 12, 2013

Steven D. Feldman on "Highlights of Selected Criminal Cases Involving Art & Cultural Objects: 2012" (The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2013)

Steven D. Feldman, a partner at Herrick, Feinstein LLP, highlights three cases involving art and cultural objects in 2012 in the Spring 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime:

In the United States, the year 2012 was notable for the intersection of criminal cases, and the art and cultural property world. Rather than a year limited to more routine cases of stolen art, fraudulent paintings, or the theft of proceeds from gallery sales, the criminal art and cultural object disputes included a constellation of fascinating cases covering a wide breadth of subjects and issues. The cases were investigated and prosecuted by a number of different agencies illustrating the variety of law enforcement entities interested in and committed to protecting art and cultural items, and their respective markets.

One case featured stolen historical documents:

In June 2012, Barry H. Landau, a famous collector of presidential memorabilia, was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for stealing valuable historical documents from museums and historical societies in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut, then selling selected documents for profit. Mr. Landau and a young colleague, Jason Savedoff were prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland. Both men pleaded guilty. The scheme may have included more than 10,000 stolen items.

Another case targeted fake looted Greek coins:

In July 2012, Dr. Arnold-Peter Weiss – a prominent Rhode Island hand surgeon, professor of orthopedics at Brown University School of Medicine, and dealer in ancient coins – pleaded guilty in New York State court to three misdemeanor counts of attempted criminal possession of stolen property, specifically three ancient coins he believed had been recently looted from Italy. Dr. Weiss was prosecuted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Dr. Weiss was sentenced to 70 hours of community service (providing medical care to disadvantaged patients in Rhode Island), was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for each of the three coins in the case, and forfeited an additional 23 ancient coins that were seized from him at the time of his arrest. The court also ordered Dr. Weiss to write an article for publication in a coin collecting magazine or journal warning of the risks of dealing in coins of unknown or looted provenance.

And the third case was about dinosaur fossils:
On December 27, 2012, Eric Prokopi, a self-described “commercial paleontologist,” pled guilty to engaging in a scheme to illegally import the fossilized remains of numerous dinosaurs that had been taken out of their native countries illegally and smuggled into the United States. Specifically, Mr. Prokopi pled guilty to a three-count criminal information: Count One charged conspiracy to smuggle illegal goods and make false statements with respect to a Chinese Microraptor fling dinosaur; Count Two charged entry of goods by means of false statements with respect to two Mongolian dinosaur fossils; and Count Three charged interstate and foreign transportation of goods converted and taken by fraud.
Steven D. Feldman heads Herrick's White Collar Litigation practice. He is also a member of Herrick's Art Law Group where he represents individuals and entities in criminal-art related matters. Prior to joining Herrick, Steven spent more than six years as a federal prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

Mr. Feldman's article is featured in the ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by ARCA Founder Noah Charney. The Journal is available electronically (pdf) and in print via subscription and The Associate Editor, Marc Balcells (ARCA '11), is a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The City University of New York.