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Man accused of stealing documents wants to sell own valuables

The FBI raided Barry H. Landau's Manhattan apartment twice, hauling out thousands of documents that authorities say link him to a theft scheme involving historical artifacts pilfered from libraries and museums in Baltimore, elsewhere in the United States and in the United Kingdom.

But agents didn't take everything from his $2,700-a-month rent-controlled apartment. The 63-year-old who was arrested in Baltimore in July is seeking permission from a federal judge to sell some of his prized artifacts to pay his rent and other "everyday living expenses" while he is out on bail awaiting trial.

The items, according to court documents, include sterling silver flatware given to him by his mother, two silver lamps he bought at an auction, a crystal bar set that includes decanters, glasses and sconces, and, most valuable of all, an Andy Warhol print of actress Elizabeth Taylor listed in the documents as a "gift from artist."

A motion filed Friday by Landau's attorneys in U.S. District Court in Baltimore describes the Warhol print, titled "Liz," as appraised at $40,000 to $60,000 by Christie's auction house. The lithograph, one of 300 made, is signed by both Taylor and Warhol. It's part of the artist's series of celebrity prints that includes Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe.

Tudor Davies, the head of the print department at Christie's in New York, said he could not comment on a specific artwork or contract.

He did say that the "Warhol market is extremely widespread in value." The appraiser said Warhol made 13 original canvas paintings of Taylor in 1963. Those are extremely valuable: The New York Times reported in May that one of the paintings, "Liz #5," sold at auction for $27 million.

The lithographs, however, are worth far less. "They are in an entirely different field," Davies said.

Landau's attorney, Andrew C. White, would not comment on the filing.

It could not be verified whether Landau ever met Warhol or that Warhol gave him the print. Landau hobnobbed with Hollywood elite and was a collector of presidential memorabilia who wrote a coffee-table book on White House cuisine. In 2007, the Associated Press described his apartment on West 57th Street as filled with artifacts, vintage inauguration etchings and presidential plates.

Baltimore police arrested Landau and his then live-in partner, Jason Savedoff, in July and charged them with stealing from the Maryland Historical Society. Federal prosecutors later charged him with stealing 60 documents from the Baltimore society, including a land grant signed by Abraham Lincoln.

In later court appearances, federal prosecutors said he also stole seven copies of Franklin D. Roosevelt's annotated inaugural addresses, which he sold, and a letter from Benjamin Franklin to John Paul Jones from two New York archives.

The prosecutors have outlined a far-reaching theft scheme that spans five states and the United Kingdom, and includes alleged thefts from friends and documents written by such notables as Napoleon, Queen Marie Antoinette, Sir Isaac Newton and Beethoven.

In August, a federal judge allowed Landau to go home pending trial on the charges but ordered him to virtual house arrest in his midtown Manhattan apartment. He had to surrender his passport, is barred from the Internet and cannot contact museums.

The court documents filed Friday say that the Warhol print would be turned over to Christie's auction house, and that all proceeds from the sales would be placed in an escrow account controlled by Landau's attorneys. Other items have not been appraised, according to the documents.

Federal prosecutors declined to comment on the motion but said they would file a response in court, possibly this week or early next week.

In August, a prosecutor said in court that authorities doubted Landau's claim of being out of money, saying he could have funds stashed away overseas or hidden in banks. That he could afford rent, Assistant U.S. Attorney P. Michael Cunningham said at the time, "raises a big red flag as to the accuracy of the financial picture that we know."

Landau's attorneys said in court that their client has $1,544 to his name, no real estate and no other assets other than his art collection. Landau claimed he earned $11,000 on his 2010 tax return. In court papers, his attorneys describe Landau as a pauper.

"The defendant seeks to liquidate these items because he is now without funds necessary to pay his everyday expenses," they wrote in the motion to sell his assets.

In addition to the Warhol print, the court papers say other items Landau wants to sell include presidential inaugural medals, another Warhol print titled "cow," a print by Salvador Dali, artwork from Francesco Scavullo and Victor Vasarely, and as many as 60 silver dollars.

peter.hermann@baltsu.com

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