Published: July 27, 2021
On July 20, 78-year-old Thomas Gavin pleaded guilty to one count of disposing of an object of cultural heritage stolen from a museum.
The thief was apprehended after he sold more than 20 antique firearms and a Native American concho belt to Pennsylvania dealer Kelly Kinzle in 2018. Gavin had stolen from more than five museums, according to a report in The New York Times.
Most notable among the horde was a long rifle made during the Revolutionary War by Pennsylvania master gunsmith Johann Christian Oerter. The rifle was returned to the Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution in a 2019 ceremony and the organization has lent it to the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.
“The Christian Oerter rifle exhibits exemplary early American artistry, and is a reminder that courage and sacrifice were necessary to secure American independence,” said R. Scott Stephenson, the museum’s president, in a statement.
Gavin confessed to thefts at the Hershey Museum, the American Swedish Historical Museum, the Valley Forge Historical Society and the Pennsylvania Farm Museum.
Gavin is held on $100,000 bail until his November 15 sentencing. Prosecutors seek a maximum of $20,200 in restitution, while the charge carries a maximum of ten years in prison.
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