Antique Bookbinder Sentenced to Prison for False Invoices in Gutenberg Bible Fraud Scheme
ATLANTA – Michael Chrisman, an Ohio bookbinder, has been sentenced to one year and nine months in federal prison for stealing nearly $500,000 from his Atlanta business partner in a bookbinding project. The defendant sent false invoices claiming that he completed more than 70 sets of replica Gutenberg Bibles, but he failed to complete all but a handful of sets and instead pocketed the victim’s money to pay for personal expenses.
"Mr. Chrisman tricked the victim into paying false invoices for hand-bound Gutenberg Bible facsimiles that were never completed, and the defendant repeatedly lied to cover up his fraud," said U. S. Attorney John Horn.
"Today’s sentencing in federal court holds the defendant, Michael Chrisman, fully accountable for his criminal actions. Fraud schemes involving such high loss amounts can do irreparable harm to many businesses, and the FBI remains committed toward assisting and protecting these businesses from those individuals, such as Mr. Chrisman," stated David J. LeValley, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office.
According to United States Attorney Horn, the charges, and other information presented in court: Michael Chrisman, a bookbinder and rare books restorer, was the owner of Bookbinders Workshop, Inc. in New York. In 2010, Chrisman entered a bookbinding contract with the victim, who had obtained replica loose-leaf pages of the Gutenberg Bible. The original Gutenberg Bible was the first book printed in Western Europe using movable metal type, and the few remaining original copies are among the most valuable books in the world. Chrisman agreed to bind the replica Gutenberg Bible pages using traditional 15th century binding techniques, including hand-binding the pages in pigskin leather with brass clasps. The victim agreed to pay Chrisman’s invoices for each completed set, and the victim planned to sell each replica two-volume set for $12,500 when the entire project was complete.
From October 2010 through June 2013, the defendant sent approximately two dozen invoices to the victim falsely charging him up to $5,500 for each completed Gutenberg Bible set, in addition to bills for supplies. In reality, Chrisman completed binding for only five of the more than seventy sets billed to the victim, resulting in a loss to the victim of over $480,000. Chrisman lied to the victim repeatedly about his progress and only later confessed that he had falsely billed for sets he never completed and that he used the fraudulently obtained money to pay his own living expenses.
Michael Chrisman, 53, of Columbus, OH, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Steve C. Jones to one year and nine months in federal prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and he was ordered to pay $483,403 in restitution to the victim. Chrisman was convicted on a wire fraud charge on September 6, 2016, after he pleaded guilty.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorney Nathan P. Kitchens prosecuted the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.