History for the taking? Man pilfers papers signed by presidents, potentates.

A New York man pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to steal historical documents signed by the likes of Washington, Lincoln, Adams, Marie Antoinette, and Napoleon Bonaparte.

Patrick Semansky/AP
Jason Savedoff walks out of US District Court after appearing at a re-arraignment hearing in Baltimore, Thursday, Oct. 27. Savedoff pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal valuable documents from historical archives throughout the Northeast. Savedoff and historian Barry Landau were charged in July with stealing historical documents from the Maryland Historical Society and conspiring to steal documents from other archives. Both initially pleaded not guilty.

A New York man pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiring to steal historical documents, including treasured records signed by George Washington, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Marie Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Franklin Roosevelt.

Jason James Savedoff entered his plea in federal court in Baltimore.

He was arrested in July at the Maryland Historical Society after museum staff became suspicious and called police. Authorities discovered 79 stolen documents, including a land grant dated June 1, 1861 to a soldier who served in the Maryland Militia during the War of 1812. It was signed by President Lincoln.

Other recovered documents were identified as having been removed from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Connecticut Historical Society, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library.

Mr. Savedoff and co-conspirator used hidden pockets sewn into sports coats to remove the documents, officials said. They also removed card catalogue entries and other “finding aids” in an attempt to cover up the thefts. Savedoff told staff at the Maryland Historical Society that he was researching a book.

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