Published: March 20, 2001
PHILADELPHIA, PENN. – United States Attorney Michael R. Stiles and Robert Conforti, Special Agent in Charge of the Philadelphia Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, have announced the filing of a 13-count indictment charging Russ Pritchard, III and George Juno for their involvement in a mail and wire fraud scheme in Bryn Mawr, Montgomery County, arising from the acquisition and sale of Civil War-era military artifacts.
The grand jury charges that the defendants were engaged in the business of appraising, purchasing and selling military-related artifacts through their business American Ordnance Preservation Association (AOPA), of 311 Millbank Road, Bryn Mawr, Penn. As appraisers appearing on the PBS television series Antiques Roadshow, the grand jury alleges that the defendants engaged in staged or phony appraisals to enhance their reputation as experts in the appraisal of military artifacts and to attract from the viewing potential sellers of military artifacts to AOPA.
The grand jury charges that through phony television appraisals, the defendants attracted potential customers and fraudulently obtained a Civil War sword from descendants of a Union officer, Major Samuel J. Wilson. It is further alleged that the defendants engaged in a deceptive appraisal of the sword and falsely represented that the sword was being acquired by, and would be permanently displayed at, the Harrisburg National Civil War Museum. In fact, the indictment charges, the sword was obtained for the personal profit of the defendants who then provided phony paper work to the descendants of the Union officer to disguise their acts.
The grand jury further alleges that defendants Russ Pritchard, III engaged in a fraudulent scheme to acquire artifacts that had belonged to General George Pickett of “Pickett’s Charge” fame from the Battle of Gettysburg. It is alleged that Pritchard fraudulently obtained military artifacts, correspondence and photographs from Pickett descendants for approximately $88,000 and, in turn, resold those artifacts to the Harrisburg National Civil War museum for approximately $880,000.
It is further alleged that the defendants provided false sworn testimony in federal civil proceedings that stemmed from a civil suite instituted by a Pickett descendant against Pritchard and AOPA.
Pritchard is also charged with attempting to tamper with a potential witness in the civil case. That witness, the grand jury charges, had participated in the phony Roadshow appraisal with Pritchard and Juno.
The indictment charges six counts of mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United Sates Code, Section 1341; three counts of wire fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343; and three counts of false statement ancillary to a court proceeding, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1623. Pritchard is also charged with one count of tampering with a witness in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1512 (b)(1). If convicted, Pritchard faces 60 years imprisonment and $2,750,000 fine. Juno faces 45 years imprisonment and $2,250,000 fine. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
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