Presidential historian indicted on federal charges

Presidential historian Barry Landau and his assistant were indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday, accused of stealing and selling historical documents that include a letter from Benjamin Franklin and speeches by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The federal theft and conspiracy charges come on top of state charges for Landau, 63, and his 24-year-old assistant, Jason Savedoff.

The men were arrested July 9 after a Maryland Historical Society employee reported Savedoff took a document out of the society's Baltimore library. When police arrived, investigators found 60 documents inside a locker Savedoff was using, including papers signed by President Abraham Lincoln worth $300,000 and presidential inaugural ball invitations and programs worth $500,000, Baltimore prosecutors have said.

A message left for Landau's attorney was not immediately returned, but lawyers for the pair have previously disputed the charges.

Federal prosecutors said Thursday the two are also accused of stealing and selling documents from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in New York. They also stole Franklin's letter to John Paul Jones from the New York Historical Society, prosecutors said.

The pair are accused of stealing seven "reading copies" of speeches given by Roosevelt, four of which Landau is accused of selling later for $35,000. They face a maximum sentence of five years in prison for conspiracy and 10 years for theft of the documents, the U.S. attorney's office said.

Initial appearances for the pair were scheduled Friday in federal court in Baltimore.

U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said a nationwide investigation is continuing and encouraged anyone with information about the acquisition or sale of historical items by the two to contact the FBI.

The scheme "should send a wake-up call to museums that entrust valuable documents to persons who claim to be engaged in academic research," Rosenstein said.

FBI Agent Richard McFeely said the agency has recovered thousands of records during his tenure, but "the scope and notoriety of what we have seized and secured in this case is truly breathtaking."