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Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities Investigations
06/19/2009

Man linked to stolen Hitler bookmark sentenced

SEATTLE - The man who attempted to sell a gold bookmark that is believed to have belonged to Adolf Hitler was sentenced today in federal court to 30 days in prison, 90 days of home monitoring and three years of supervised release, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Christian Popescu, 37, of Kenmore, Wash., was arrested by ICE agents in November 2008 outside a Bellevue, Wash., Starbucks coffee shop. He had come to the Starbucks to negotiate the sale of the bookmark. He pleaded guilty in March 2009 to sale or receipt of stolen goods.

The bookmark, which was stolen from a Madrid, Spain, auction house in 2002, bears Hitler's image and is believed to have been given to him in 1943 by his longtime mistress, Eva Braun. It was a gift intended to console him after the German army's defeat at Stalingrad and is inscribed in part with the following words: "My Adolf, don't worry…(the deafeat)…was only an inconvenience that will not break your certainty of victory."

Popescu originally tried to sell the bookmark for $150,000, but eventually reduced the asking price to $100,000. In his plea agreement, he admitted it was difficult to move the bookmark from Europe to the United States without detection.

"ICE has unique authority to investigate cases where items of historical or cultural significance are illegally put up for sale to the highest bidder," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations. "We take this responsibility seriously and we will continue to work closely with the global law enforcement community to target those who seek to benefit financially from this type of activity."

The bookmark is considered a historical artifact and was set to be auctioned when it was stolen along with several pieces of jewelry by three eastern European thieves. Following the theft, the auction house paid the bookmark's owner 10,000 euros - or approximately $9,800 at the time - to compensate for the theft. The insurance company later paid the auction house 10,000 euros.

ICE was joined in this investigation by the Spanish National Police, INTERPOL, the Seattle Police Department, the Port of Seattle Police Department, the Bellevue Police Department and the ICE attaché in Madrid.