News and Press Releases

KENMORE MAN SENTENCED IN STOLEN HITLER BOOKMARK CASE
18 Carat Gold Bookmark Stolen in Spain in 2002 Forfeited to the U.S.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 19, 2009

CHRISTIAN POPESCU, 38, of Kenmore, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 30 days in prison, three years of supervised release, including 90 days of electronic home monitoring, for Sale or Receipt of Stolen Goods. POPESCU was arrested November 25, 2008, after attempting to sell a gold bookmark which allegedly was first given to Adolf Hitler by his mistress Eva Braun. The bookmark was stolen in the fall of 2002, from an auction house in Madrid, Spain, just days before it was to be sold at auction. The United States government will be working with Spanish authorities to return the bookmark to its rightful owner. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said the bookmark has “great historical value for better or for worse. You had no qualms about selling it to someone who would hide it from the world.”

According to the plea agreement and other records filed in the case, in August 2008, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer working in Seattle got word that someone was trying to sell a gold bookmark that had belonged to Adolf Hitler. Investigators learned that the bookmark allegedly was a gift from Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun, after Hitler’s armies were defeated in the battle of Stalingrad in 1943. The bookmark was intended to cheer Hitler, and is inscribed in part: “My Adolf, don’t worry... (the defeat)... was only an inconvenience that will not break your certainty of victory.” The bookmark was to be auctioned in October 2002, by a Madrid, Spain, auction house, when thieves stole the bookmark and several pieces of jewelry. The bookmark apparently had belonged previously to the family of one of Hitler’s armed forces chiefs, who was executed following the Nuremberg trials.

Using a confidential source, ICE agents arranged to have an undercover officer “purchase” the bookmark from POPESCU at a Starbucks in Bellevue, Washington. POPESCU was arrested when he arrived with the bookmark to make the deal. Before his arrest, POPESCU told the undercover officer that a necklace stolen with the bookmark had been melted down, but that the bookmark was considered more valuable in its original form. The auction house had paid the owner about $10,000 to compensate for the loss of the bookmark. While POPESCU had demanded $100,000 for the bookmark, by law the $10,000 figure is the appropriate amount for sentencing purposes. POPESCU’s sentencing guidelines range was zero to six months in prison.

In asking for a prison term, Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Woods pointed out that the significance of the Hitler bookmark is not captured by its dollar value. “Popescu was trafficking in an item of intense historical significance and interest. Moreover, the rightful owner of the bookmark was deprived of its use and enjoyment for over six years. Indeed, rather than return the bookmark to its rightful owner, Popescu attempted to make a profit by selling the bookmark in an illicit transaction, ensuring that the bookmark would remain concealed from the public and the rightful owner,” Mr. Woods wrote to the court.

“ICE has unique authority to investigate cases where items of historical or cultural significance are illegally put up for sale to the highest bidder,” said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations. “We take this responsibility seriously and we will continue to work closely with the global law enforcement community to target those who seek to benefit financially from this type of activity.”

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Thomas Woods and Rich Cohen.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@usdoj.gov.

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