But White called the scenario "completely bass-ackwards." Both men are "tremendously flawed individuals who together were an incredibly explosive combination," White said, saying that Savedoff "enmeshed" himself in Landau's life and pushed the older man to commit bigger crimes.

It wasn't like "oh, you hard-bodied little thing, let me use you as my mole," White said. "There are so many psychological undercurrents to this case, it's worse than the River Nile."

Judge Blake noted that the escalation in thefts occurred after Savedoff entered the picture and that he had "an equal if not greater profit motive" for the scheme.

"It seemed to me that they worked together," she said, calling it an "equal or complementary marriage of skills." Landau had the historical expertise and sales contacts, while Savedoff had the technology skills to perform Internet research.

According to Landau's plea agreement, he and Savedoff researched the market values for items associated with various historic figures, then worked their way into archives under false pretenses, claiming they were researchers and sometimes bearing baked goods. In this way, they took from numerous museums, including the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Connecticut Historical Society, the University of Vermont and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library.

They sold a portion of the items, including reading copies of Roosevelt's inauguration speeches, for more than $46,000 and referred to one another as W1 and W2 — for weasel 1 (Landau) and weasel 2 (Savedoff).

A July trip to the Maryland Historical Society brought it all to an end, however. Two sharp-eyed employees grew suspicious of the men and spotted Savedoff swiping a text. They called police, and it was later discovered that roughly 60 documents from the Baltimore-based archive had been stashed in a locker along with items from other libraries.

"Within 48 hours, what we thought was a local incident escalated into a multi-state federal investigation involving the U.S. Attorney's office, the FBI, and the National Archives Security and Recovery Team," officials from the Maryland archives wrote in a letter to the judge, outlining Landau and Savedoff's impact on their library and archives as a whole.

After the thefts were made public, museums throughout the country spent thousands of hours and dollars overhauling their security efforts. It has forever changed the way archivists interact with researchers, archivists said.

A letter to the judge from U.S. Archivist David S. Ferriero said "trust has been undermined" for the National Archives.

But "ultimately," he noted, "it is the American people that are most greatly victimized when records are stolen. … Mr. Landau's selfish acts have robbed the public of a part of its collective history."

tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

twitter.com/triciabishop

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts