News and Press Releases

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 12, 2009

CHRISTIAN POPESCU, 37, of Kenmore, Washington, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to Sale or Receipt of Stolen Goods. POPESCU was arrested November 25, 2008, after setting up a deal 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. As part of the plea agreement, POPESCU forfeits the bookmark to the United States. POPESCU faces up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine when sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez on June 12, 2009.

“Today’s plea is a reminder that the theft and sale of historical artifacts is a high-risk business,” said Leigh Winchell, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Investigations. “ICE will continue to aggressively investigate cases to target this type of illegal activity.”

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 golden bookmark that had belonged to Adolf Hitler. Investigators were able to learn more about the item’s history. 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 three eastern European thieves stole the bookmark and several pieces of jewelry. The bookmark apparently had previously belonged to the family of one of Hitler’s armed forces chiefs, who was executed following the Nuremberg trials.

Using a confidential source, agents with ICE set up to “purchase” the artifact in Bellevue, Washington. POPESCU was arrested when he arrived with the bookmark to make the deal. Before his arrest, POPESCU told the undercover agent 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.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney’s Thomas Woods and Rich Cohen.

For additional information or to obtain a photo of the bookmark, 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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