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Press Release

Cambridge Man Pleads Guilty In 17th Century Diary Theft

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
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BOSTON – A Cambridge man pleaded guilty yesterday to identity fraud related to the theft and sale of a book stolen from Boston’s historic Old South Church.

Michael Ford, 66, pleaded guilty to using the identity of another man in August 2008 in connection with the sale of the diary. U.S. District Judge George A. O’Toole scheduled sentencing for Feb. 27, 2015.

The diary, which was written by James Hull in the 1600s, had been stolen from a display case in the Old South Church in the summer of 2008. On Aug. 11, 2008, a man sold the diary to a bookstore near Harvard Square for $750, using the driver’s license of another man as identification. Within 40 minutes of this transaction, Ford had obtained the check and the driver’s license and, using the license as identification, cashed the check at a bank in Harvard Square. The bookstore thereafter realized the diary had substantial historic significance and sold it to a collector for $40,000. After the sale, upon learning that the diary had been stolen, the bookstore bought it back and restored it to the Church.

According to the plea agreement, Ford faces no greater than five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Vincent B. Lisi, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Boston Police Commission William Evans; Harvard University Police Chief Francis D. Riley; and Boston University Police Chief Thomas G. Robbins made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert E. Richardson of Ortiz’s Major Crimes Unit.

Updated December 15, 2014