Christian Popescu, 37, of Kenmore, Wash., was arrested by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) outside a Bellevue, Wash., Starbucks Coffee yesterday, after setting up a clandestine meeting to negotiate the sale of the stolen bookmark, which allegedly had been given to Hitler as a gift by his longtime mistress, Eva Braun, in 1943.
Considered an historical artifact, the bookmark was set to be auctioned in October 2002, by a Madrid, Spain auction house when it was stolen by three eastern European thieves, along with several pieces of jewelry. The bookmark is believed to have previously belonged to the family of Wilhelm Keitel, an armed forces chief under Hitler, who was executed following the Nuremberg trials.
While most of the other items stolen in the robbery have been recovered, this is the first time in six years that the bookmark has surfaced. It is believed Braun gave Hitler the bookmark as consolation for his army's defeat in the battle of Stalingrad, as it is inscribed in part with the following words from Braun: "My Adolf, don't worry…(the defeat)… was only an inconvenience that will not break your certainty of victory."
According to the criminal complaint filed in connection with the case, ICE agents received a tip this past summer that someone was interested in selling the bookmark. During his attempt to sell the item, Popescu acknowledged that the bookmark was stolen in Spain and agreed to a $100,000 price.
"Artifacts of historical significance are not souvenirs for illegal sale to the highest bidder," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge for ICE's Office of Investigations in Seattle. "As always, ICE along with our domestic and international law enforcement partners will continue its aggressive enforcement of this type of criminal activity. This case highlights the diversity of laws enforced by ICE."
A conviction for sale or receipt of stolen goods is punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
ICE was joined in this investigation by the Spanish National Police, INTERPOL, Seattle Police Department, the Port of Seattle Police Department, the Bellevue Police Department and the ICE attaché in Madrid. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Woods and Richard Cohen.
Editors Note: For additional information or to obtain photographs of the bookmark, please contact Lorie Dankers, public affairs officer for ICE, at (206) 553-0353 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information on the initial appearance or to obtain a copy of the complaint, please contact Emily Langlie, public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@usdoj.gov.