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Press Release

Lackawanna County Woman Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Steal Major Artworks and Sports Memorabilia

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania

SCRANTON – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Dawn Trotta, age 52, of Covington Township, Pennsylvania, entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit theft of major artwork, concealment or disposal of objects of cultural heritage, and interstate transportation of stolen property, a federal Felony. 

On February 9, 2024, Trotta admitted in court to the Honorable District Judge Malachy E. Mannion, that from on or about August of 1999 and continuing through in or about April of 2019, in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, that she intentionally conspired with others commit engage in a scheme to steal major artwork and objects of cultural heritage, and to move the stolen property in interstate commerce.    

Eight other individuals have been charged in the same conspiracy.  Thomas Trotta, age 48, of Moscow, Pennsylvania, Frank Tassiello, age 51, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Daryl Rinker, age 50, of Thornhurst, Pennsylvania, and Ralph Parry, age 45, of Covington Township, Pennsylvania, were all charged by felony information and have already pleaded guilty.

On June 6, 2023, a federal grand jury indicted Nicholas Dombek, age 53, of Thornhurst, Pennsylvania, Damien Boland, age 47, of Moscow, Pennsylvania, Alfred Atsus, age 47, of Covington Township, Pennsylvania, and Joseph Atsus, age 49, of Roaring Brook, Pennsylvania, with conspiracy and the substantive counts of theft of major artwork and the concealment or disposal of objects of cultural heritage.  Dombek was further charged with a substantive count of interstate transportation of stolen property.  They are presently pending trial.

According to United States Attorney Gerard M. Karam, the indictment and informations charge the nine individuals with conspiring over a period of 20 years to break into multiple museums and other institutions and steal priceless works of art, sports memorabilia, and other objects. Those objects include the following:

  • A Christy Matthewson jersey and two contracts signed by Matthewson stolen in 1999 from Keystone College in Factoryville, Pennsylvania;
  • “Le Grande Passion” by Andy Warhol and “Springs Winter” stolen in 2005 from the Everhart Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania;
  • Nine (9) World Series rings, seven (7) other championship rings, and two (2) MVP plaques all belonging to Yogi Berra, worth over $1,000,000 stolen in 2014 from the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center in Little Falls, New Jersey;
  • Six (6) championship belts, including four belonging to Carmen Basillio and two belonging to Tony Zale stolen in 2015 from the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York;
  • The Hickok Belt and MVP Trophy belonging to Roger Maris, stolen in 2016 from the Roger Maris Museum in Fargo, North Dakota;
  • The U.S. Amateur Trophy and a Hickok Belt awarded to Ben Hogan, stolen in 2012 from the USGA Golf Museum & Library;
  • Fourteen (14) trophies and other awards worth over $300,000 stolen in 2012 from the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame in Goshen, New York;
  • Five (5) trophies worth over $400,000, including the 1903 Belmont Stakes Trophy, stolen in 2013 from the National Racing Museum & Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York;
  • Eleven (11) trophies, including 4 belonging to Art Wall, Jr. stolen in 2011 from the Scranton Country Club located in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania;
  • Three antique firearms worth a combined $1,000,000 stolen in 2006 from Space Farms: Zoo & Museum in Wantage, New Jersey;
  • An 1903/1904 Tiffany Lamp stolen in 2010 from the Lackawanna Historical Society in Scranton, Pennsylvania,
  • “Upper Hudson” by Jasper Crospey, worth approximately $500,000, stolen in 2011 from Ringwood Manor in Ringwood, New Jersey;
  • Two antique firearms worth over $300,000, stolen in 2011 from Ringwood Manor in Ringwood, New Jersey;
  • $400,000 worth of gold nuggets stolen in 2011 from the Sterling Hill Mining Museum in Ogdensburg, New Jersey;
  • Various gems, minerals, and other items stolen in 2017 from the Franklin Mineral Museum in Franklin, New Jersey;
  • An antique shotgun worth over $30,000 stolen in 2018 from Space Farms: Zoo & Museum in Wantage, New Jersey;
  • Various jewelry, rings, and other items from various antique and jewelry stores in New York, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania.

The indictment and informations further allege that after stealing the above-described items, the conspirators would transport the stolen goods back to northeastern Pennsylvania, often the residence of Dombek, and melt the memorabilia down into easily transportable metal discs or bars.  The conspirators would then sell the raw metal to fences in the New York City area for hundreds or thousands of dollars, significantly less than the stolen items would be worth at fair market value.

The indictment and informations further allege that Dombek burnt the painting “Upper Hudson” by Jasper Crospey, valued at approximately $500,000, to avoid the painting being recovered by investigators and used as evidence against the members of the conspiracy.  The whereabouts of many of the other paintings and stolen objects are currently unknown. 

The matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Pennsylvania State Police, the New Jersey State Police, the New York State Police, the New Jersey State Park Police, the Newport Police Department (Rhode Island), the Fargo Police Department (North Dakota), the Chester Police Department (New York), the Exeter Borough Police Department (Pennsylvania), the Scranton Police Department, the Franklin Police Department (New Jersey), the Village of Goshen Police Department (New York), the Metropolitan Police Department (Washington, D.C.), the West Milord Township Police Department (New Jersey), the Montclair Police Department (New Jersey), the Saratoga Springs Police Department (New York), the Canastota Police Department (New York), the South Abington Police Department (Pennsylvania), the Bernards Township Police Department (New Jersey), the Salisbury Township Police Department (Pennsylvania), the Montclair State University Police Department (New Jersey) the Lackawanna County District Attorney’s Office (Pennsylvania), the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office (New Jersey), the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office (New Jersey), the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (New York), the Madison County District Attorney’s Office (New York), and multiple other local law enforcement agencies from across the country.   Assistant United States Attorney James M. Buchanan is prosecuting the case.

Sentencing for Dawn Trotta is not yet scheduled.  Trotta faces a maximum penalty of imprisonment for a term of five years, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine.  Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.

Indictments and informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.

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Updated February 12, 2024