In August, I told you about the precious artifact stolen from a Bryn Mawr home. It was so egregious to me, I called the post “stealing history”.
Well apparently, at long last, there is an update. The thieving former cleaning lady has been caught.
This case caught world-wide attention, and even late yesterday was in the news in the UK and Europe. Of course, as many feared, this greedy ignorant woman not only stole history but damaged it as well. Between the Federal and local charges pending against Andrea Lawton, I hope they throw the book at her.
I am still curious to know whether or not she was part of a larger theft ring. Or just one stupid woman acting on her own.
The owner of a stolen portrait bust of Benjamin Franklin valued at $3 million said Monday that he was relieved that the art treasure had been recovered, but was anxious to know how badly it was damaged by the thief.
George A. D’Angelo said he “stopped breathing” when he was told the porcelain object stolen Aug. 24 from his Bryn Mawr home had been recovered in Elkton, Md., with a cracked breastplate.
The FBI is holding the piece for fingerprints, so he has yet to see it. Once “Ben is back,” D’Angelo said, he will hire a restoration expert.
“I think it can be repaired,” said D’Angelo, 85, a Philadelphia lawyer. “I hope so. It would be ghastly if it can’t.”….
Andrea Lawton, 46, of Philadelphia and Mobile, Ala., was arrested Friday as she got off a bus in Elkton. She was carrying the bust in a gunny sack, D’Angelo said.
Lawton, also known as Andrea Gresham, was charged with theft, fraud, and interstate transportation of stolen property, according to papers filed in federal court in Philadelphia….
The 25-pound, 28-inch-high bust was made in 1778 by Jean-Antoine Houdon while Franklin was visiting Paris. There are only three others like it in existence.
A framed case containing a picture of Victor Herbert, a conductor’s baton, an autograph, and a list of his music – valued at $80,000 – was also gone. D’Angelo said police told him that piece was still missing.
“It’s a bizarre story,” D’Angelo said. “She said she doesn’t know anything about Victor Herbert” and may have disposed of the picture at a secondhand shop without realizing its value.
Police and the FBI traced the address of Lawton, who has four burglary convictions, to Hazelhurst Street in Philadelphia, but when she didn’t return there, the FBI tracked her to Mobile, her hometown.
On Sept. 19, a witness told the FBI that Lawton “still had possession of the bust, and that she intended to transport it outside of Alabama in order to sell it on the black market.”
“It’s like stealing Venus de Milo from the Louvre,” said D’Angelo. “What in heaven’s name would you think she was going to do with it?”
PUBLISHED:21:38 EST, 24 September 2012| UPDATED:07:40 EST, 25 September 2012
A bungling housekeeper turned thief was arrested Friday for stealing a precious sculpture of Benjamin Franklin she managed to break in the heist.
Andrea Lawton, 46, was briefly employed by Philadelphia attorney George A. D’Angelo, 85, this summer when she first spotted the 18th century bust when she was told to be careful cleaning around it because it was ‘extremely valuable.’
She was fired on August 21 before returning three days later to grab it from Mr D’Angelo’s Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, home and run off to Elkton, Maryland, with the $3million bust stuffed in a burlap sack …
Lawton was seen rushing out of the home on August 24 by the new cleaning staff, who recognized her getting into a red Chevy Taho or SUV.
Police said she entered the home by pushing in an air-conditioner on the porch while another woman was waiting in the car.
When she didn’t return to her Philadelphia home, police tracked her to another address in Mobile, Alabama.
On the Main Line they are stealing history now. Specifically in my former home community of Lower Merion.
Lower Merion seems to have increasing issues with crime. Maybe that is why insurance premiums often drop when you now leave this municipality? Read this article and be disgusted. More commentary below.
Posted: Sun, Aug. 26, 2012, 3:01 AM
By Jonathan Lai and Bonnie L. Cook Inquirer Staff Writers
For a brief period this summer, Andrea Lawton worked on the housekeeping staff of their home, according to a Bryn Mawr couple. Now, say Lower Merion police, she is suspected of cleaning them out of a rare bust of Benjamin Franklin said to be worth more than $3 million.
Lawton, 46, of Philadelphia, learned her employers’ routine during her month working at their residence on the 600 block of Black Rock Road, according to homeowner George A. D’Angelo.
Police responded to a call by the household staff, which reported the burglary about 12:30 p.m. Friday, while he and his wife, Brenda, were not home, D’Angelo said. But the porcelain bust and a small, framed portrait were already gone, he said.
The bust is 28 inches tall and weighs 25 pounds, including its brass supporting structure, D’Angelo said. Made by Jean-Antoine Houdon in 1778, while Franklin was visiting Paris, the bust is one of four in existence, he said….The three other busts are at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Louvre in Paris, according to D’Angelo. The Louvre version is made of terra cotta; the two others are marble.
When the marble bust was donated to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, it was valued at about $3 million, said D’Angelo, who believes the stolen work is worth at least as much.
It is unique, he said, because Franklin’s expression seems to vary from different angles. The work is part of a collection of historical objects his family has collected, D’Angelo said.
Lawton and another woman were seen leaving the house Friday by a staff member, D’Angelo said. But because both had been recent employees there, their presence did not raise suspicion, he said….D’Angelo said he was considering offering a reward as an incentive for the safe recovery of the historic Franklin bust.
“I just hope it’s returned,” he said. “It’s our history – American history.”
I am posting this because this is one of these things that just pisses me off. The stories of housekeepers and house cleaners or anyone who basically take domestic jobs to rip people off is just the lowest of the low.
There is honor in any job, as long as it is well-done. That includes being part of someone’s domestic staff. Domestic staff has unusually close access to people and whether they are gardener, nanny, housekeeper, cook, nursing aide or someone who helps one of the aforementioned, one would think they would do the job with some sort of honor and ethics. After all they chose to do the job.
But to steal from nice people? Ugh. I know all too well what it is like, it happened to my mother shortly after my father passed away. There was a lady who was helping clean her home, who had been in and out of the homes of many my mother knew. Your basic cleaning lady. She had been around long enough to steal my mother’s trust, and then her valuables. This woman stole most of the jewelry my late father ever gave my mother, silk scarves, underwear with the tags still on it, and oh yes a dog collar because it had a silver tag. Flash forward a couple of years and another woman my mother knew was also cleaned out. Nothing was ever recovered. And face it, when you steal from a widow, it doesn’t get much lower, does it?
Truthfully, the news has too many of these stories. There was one in May covered by The Times Herald. Let’s not forget the story of domestic theft from 2009 that had Main Line and West Chester connections, right?
NORRISTOWN — A former East Goshen housekeeper earned the trust of her wealthy Main Line clients and then stole their jewelry and valuable sports memorabilia out from under them, according to prosecutors.
“Kimberley Williams is a story of stealing and of lying,” Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Bradford Richman argued to a jury as Williams’ theft trial got under way Tuesday. “She ingratiated herself … so that these families grew to trust her.”
But Williams, through her lawyer Douglas Breidenbach Jr., implied to the jury that Williams’ estranged husband, a Marple Township police officer, had the opportunity to enter the homes from which the items went missing and had “great motive” to frame Williams for the thefts….Williams, 46, formerly of Margo Lane, is charged with theft by unlawful taking or disposition and receiving stolen property in connection with alleged incidents that occurred in Montgomery and Delaware counties between January 2007 and December 2008 at the homes of five people who hired her as a housekeeper.
Williams is accused of making more than $50,000 by selling jewelry, sports memorabilia and other items she allegedly stole from the homes. Williams, who most recently resided in Summerville, S.C., faces a possible maximum sentence of 35 to 70 years in prison if she’s convicted of all the charges.
So anyway, this stealing of history is a new all time low as far as I am concerned. And stealing something so famous as one of the busts Jean-Antoine Houdon did of founding father Benjamin Franklin while he was not only alive, but in Paris in the 18th century?
Now I have to wonder, as this (at least to me) seems somewhat a very specific thing to steal, was this housekeeping staffer turned thief sent in specifically by someone else to steal this? After all what are the chances of an every day person no matter who they are recognizing this as a priceless artifact? How would someone sell this other than on a very specific black market? Did this suspect only take the job to case the house?
There are only four other versions of this bust by Houdon – one in terra-cotta, two in marble. If I did my research correctly, one of the marble busts last came up at auction in 1996. Follow this link to check out the one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. My research indicates there are ones that are of the Houdon school, probably students of his at the time that come up. In your mind’s eye you can almost see Benjamin Franklin sitting for this sculpture.
Well hopefully Lower Merion cops will be information sharing with other police departments and even law enforcement on a Federal level who deal with art theft to bring this piece of history home. Read more on Houdon here.
And I have to wonder, are there any other art thefts that have not been reported to the media?
For more on Benjamin Franklin click HERE. The Biography Channel did a piece on him over the past couple of years (click HERE). The best biography/documentary I have seen on Franklin and his life was done by The History Channel.
This whole thing is so White Collar I can’t stand it. Here’s hoping they find Ben Franklin before some fool who doesn’t know Wal Mart for Art breaks him.