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Artifact thief to serve prison time

Ex-archivist stole state documents

Friday, October 3, 2008
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— A former state archivist and Civil War expert who stole hundreds of historical documents and artifacts belonging to the New York State Library and sold some of them over the Internet for personal profit was sentenced on Thursday to two to six years in prison.

Daniel D. Lorello, 54, of Van Leuven Drive, Rensselaer, apologized to his family and co-workers at his sentencing appearance before Albany County Court Judge Thomas Breslin.

In addition to prison time, he must pay $125,500 in restitution, to be divided among people who unknowingly bought stolen property from him and later returned it to the state.

He must also forfeit his personal collection of historic artifacts and documents, valued at approximately $80,000, to the New York State Library and Archives.

Lorello was arrested in January and pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny on Aug. 8 for stealing more than 1,600 artifacts from New York state between Jan. 1, 1997, and Jan. 24, 2008.

The Attorney General’s Office said on Thursday that more than 1,600 stolen items have been recovered.

“In serving as a guardian of New York’s historical treasures, Mr. Lorello abused his position to steal priceless artifacts instead of protecting them for future generations,” Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

Lorello, in a hand-written statement submitted to the court earlier this year, said he stole the items in part to pay $10,000 in credit card bills run up by his daughter. He admitted he took things when he needed to pay family bills for house renovations, car bills, tuition and his daughter’s credit card problem. He took between 300 to 400 items in 2007.

The thefts were discovered after the state Library was contacted by Joseph Romito, a history buff from Virginia, who alerted state authorities to a pending sale of an item Lorello posted on eBay, and which he believed belonged to the library.

The item was a four-page letter to a New York general by John C. Calhoun from 1823. Calhoun was the seventh vice president of the United States, serving under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, and was an avid secessionist.

Lorello also admitted stealing two copies of the Davey Crockett Almanac, a Poor Richard’s Almanack, published by Benjamin Franklin, which he sold for $1,001, and a visiting card portrait of Civil War Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock.

State Education Commissioner Richard Mills in a statement said: “Access to the historical collections of the nation is a fundamental right in our democracy. When someone steals from those collections, we are all harmed. Fortunately, most of the items stolen by Mr. Lorello have now been recovered.”

Lorello, who resigned from his position at the Department of Education, had worked at the state archives since 1979 and oversaw the movement of records during renovation. He worked on the 11th floor of the Cultural Education Center, the same building where the State Museum is located.

 
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