PHILADELPHIA >> A number of artifacts stolen in the 1960s and 1970s have been recovered and returned to owner museums, including the Mercer Museum in Bucks County, said Jacqueline Maguire, special agent in charge of the Philadelphia division of the FBI; Jennifer Williams, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; and Kevin Steele, district attorney for Montgomery County.
The FBI’s Art Crime team and its law enforcement partners repatriated 15 objects – historic 18th and 19th century firearms and a silver concho belt – to the American Swedish Historical Museum, Hershey Story Museum, Landis Valley Museum, Mercer Museum, Museum of the American Revolution, and York County History Center, in a ceremony this morning at the Museum of the American Revolution.
Historic 18th and 19th-century firearms and a silver concho belt were returned to six Philadelphia-area museums in a ceremony held at the Museum of the American Revolution on December 17, 2021.
FBI agents and detectives from the Upper Merion Township Police Department recovered the artifacts as part of an investigation into the 1971 theft and 2018 sale of a rare surviving 1775 rifle made by the master Pennsylvania gunsmith Christian Oerter.
Thomas Gavin, of Pottstown, who pleaded guilty in July to selling the Oerter rifle, admitted to stealing it along with these additional artifacts. Gavin was convicted last month for disposing of the stolen gun.
“In law enforcement, as in any profession, there are good days and bad days. Today, being here with our partners is one of those good days, ”said Special Agent in Charge Maguire. “The absence of the objects from these museums represented not only a physical or financial loss, but a loss for every visitor, every student and every researcher who has not been able to see the objects over the years and missed important pieces of our nation’s heritage. The absence of these elements has been, for so long, a loss for the historical archives. The FBI is honored to have helped correct this loss and return these artifacts to the institutions from which they were stolen so long ago.
“Today’s announcement at the Museum of the American Revolution has been incredibly exciting and inspiring to me, as an American history buff, a working attorney in historic Philadelphia for most of my career, and proud member of a military family, ”said US Attorney Williams. . “This collection of artifacts repatriated to museums in our district is worth celebrating, something we rarely get to do in my work. And I want to recognize and thank the buyers of these items who have relinquished ownership so that they can be returned: you are true patriots.
“It took over 50 years, but now these important pieces of American history are returning to their original museums where they can be viewed and enjoyed by all Americans,” District Attorney Steele said. “It is through the tireless efforts of two detectives from Upper Merion Township Police, the FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office that these firearms were recovered and are now safe. I am so proud of their work.
Maguire and Williams thanked the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office and the Upper Merion Township Police Department for their assistance in the investigation. They also thanked Assistant United States Attorney KT Newton for his efforts in this case and also thanked the staff of the Museum of the American Revolution for their assistance.