Andrea Lawton, 46, of Mobile, Alabama, pleaded guilty in federal court in Philadelphia on December 18, 2012, to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property in connection with the theft on August 24, 2012, of a rare bust of Benjamin Franklin by Jean-Antoine Houdon, valued at approximately $3 million.
Lawton had fled with the stolen property, eventually ending up in Alabama, where she made plans to sell the bust. She was arrested on September 21, 2012, after taking a bus to Elkton, Maryland, where IRS and FBI agents recovered the 25-pound bust.
Sentencing is scheduled for March 12. Lawton faces a maximum possible sentence of ten years of imprisonment, three years of supervised release, a $500,000 fine, and a $200 special assessment.
According to an affidavit filed with the court in September by Special Agent Adam Sucheski of the FBI, the owner of the bust had hired a cleaning company to service his home in Bryn Mawr. The Philadelphia Inquireridentified the owner as George A. D’Angelo, an 85-year-old attorney, in a September 25 article. The cleaners had been instructed not to touch the bust, which was kept on a pedestal in the drawing room. The affidavit states that on August 21, the cleaning company fired Lawton. Three days later, cleaners arrived at the home and noticed in the driveway a maroon Chevy Tahoe, which then sped off. The cleaners identified the driver as Andrea Lawton.
“As Lawton drove away, [a witness] observed an exterior door to the residence ajar. [The witness] further observed that the pedestal was now outside the residence, but that the bust was not on the pedestal,” the affidavit reads.
Originally published in the February 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest