Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Lorello Tipster Profiled

The New York Times' story on the Lorello thefts focuses on Joseph Romito, the Virginia lawyer and "history buff" who alerted authorities that stolen items were being sold on eBay. Romito noticed the 9 November 1823 John Calhoun letter being sold by Lorello, "alerted the library, and was told that the matter was being looked into." Then he put in a high bid on the letter: "I knew I wasn’t going to end up buying it - I wasn’t going to pay for it - but I put in what I thought was a very high bid to try and keep it from going somewhere else. The government can be slow."

Romito has been called "the hero in the case" by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch also profiles Romito, who says when he saw the eBay description he looked in his copy of the Calhoun's published papers and saw that the letter was owned by the New York State Library. "Why would the state library relinquish this?" Romito says he asked himself.

The Albany Times-Union has a follow-up story today as well, noting that State Library staff have recovered 263 items so far (Lorello admitted stealing 300-400 items in 2007 alone). Robert Gavin's report adds: "Lorello sprinted away from reporters following his arraignment -- then walked the nearly six-mile trip to his home in Rensselaer County. He declined comment, and a ride, when approached by the Times Union on Route 43."

Gavin's TU story today does a bit more to flesh out the timeline of the investigation, noting that Lorello was confronted about the thefts last Tuesday. "Five days earlier, senior librarian Fred Bassett had received a call [from Romito] stating that Calhoun's letter, which was copied to microfilm in 1985, was somehow auctioned on eBay by someone with the idd1863 identification, court papers said. After Bassett determined the version being sold on eBay was authentic, he received more news - Calhoun's letter and its container were missing. When Kathi Stanley, another library staffer, checked other items being auctioned by idd1863, she found more items for sale, including a Currier & Ives West Point colored lithograph that also was missing, authorities said.

State Library Director Loretta Ebert examined the prior sales history for the idd1863 code, and learned of sales that included books matching the library's missing Davy Crockett's Almanack and The New England Anti-Slavery Almanac, court papers said."

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