Published: February 5, 2008
Charged with safekeeping New York State’s most historic documents, a state employee is now charged with using his position to pilfer the state library’s archives and stealing hundreds of documents, some of which he allegedly sold during online auctions and at trade shows.
Arrested on January 28, Daniel D. Lorello, 54, of Rensselaer, N.Y., is an archives and records management specialist with the Office of Cultural Education in the Department of Education, of which the New York State Library is part. He began work there in 1979.
Lorello was charged with third-degree grand larceny, fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property and first-degree scheme to defraud, all felonies, according to Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo.
Cuomo credited a Richmond, Va., lawyer with tipping off authorities and presented a certificate of appreciation to the collector that recognized and reported one of the thefts.
Virginia attorney Joseph Romito is a history buff with a keen interest in the nation’s seventh Vice President, John C. Calhoun. While searching Calhoun’s name at online auction house eBay on January 16, Romito spied an auction listing for a letter written by Calhoun when he was Secretary of War to Colonel Charles Hanes. The 1823 letter sought Hanes’ support for Calhoun’s presidential aspirations. The political content of the letter intrigued Romito, who read it through and recalled having read it elsewhere.
Finding the letter in a volume of the collected papers of Calhoun on his bookshelf, he discovered that the letter in the book was identical to the one being offered in the auction, right down to the same misspellings. The letter was cited as property of the New York State Library, and he knew something was not right.
“I thought ‘Why would the state library relinquish this?’ Our libraries are repositories where things go and they stay there forever for all to use,” said Romito.
He alerted the library the following day and as bidding progressed on the item, Romito jumped into the fray, bidding himself to make sure a piece of history was not lost, as well as phoning the library again the next week in the final hours of the auction. Unbeknownst to him, the government had already sped into action and was not only monitoring the auction but was also bidding, ultimately winning the letter for more than $1,700, the Attorney General’s office said,
Lorello also sold two Davy Crocket Almanacs, from 1835 and 1837, both to the same collector, for more than $5,000 in total, Executive Deputy Attorney Deputy General Robin Baker said.
In a signed confession, Lorello said his thefts began in 2002 to pay credit card debts or to fund improvements to his home. He stole 300‴00 items last year alone, knowing that the library planned to install security cameras, he said.
AG investigators recovered more than a dozen boxes filled with hundreds of documents from Lorello’s home. Investigators believe this constitutes the bulk of the items he stole; however, the agency is compiling an inventory to identify all the stolen documents.
Lorello estimated most of the items he took were valued at less than $1,000. Civil War memorabilia figured prominently among the stolen items, but there were also Roosevelt letters, war posters as well as Currier & Ives works including a lithograph of “View at Fort Putnam.”
“Any theft of a historical document is reprehensible. It has the effect of erasing a page in history. A free nation must have access to its history, must have access to its documents,” said State Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills, who announced research library experts would be consulted to strengthen the library’s security procedures.
The Attorney General’s office, which is prosecuting the case, is working with eBay to get sales reports from Lorello’s auctions to recover other stolen items, most of which reportedly had the New York State Library seal on them.
Cuomo implored collectors to review their documents for items with this seal and contact his office. Lorello was arraigned on January 28, and released on his own recognizance. He is to appear in court February 11.
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