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Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities Investigations
03/12/2009

Man who attempted to sell stolen Hitler bookmark pleads guilty

SEATTLE - The man who attempted to sell a gold bookmark that is believed to have belonged to Adolf Hitler pleaded guilty in federal court today to sale or receipt of stolen goods, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Christian Popescu, 37, of Kenmore, Wash., was arrested by ICE agents on November 25, 2008, outside a Starbucks in Bellevue, Wash.  He had come to the Starbucks to negotiate the sale of the bookmark.

According to the plea agreement, Popescu knew the bookmark he was attempting to sell had been stolen from an auction house in Madrid, Spain, in October 2002.  He also admitted it was difficult to move the bookmark from Europe to the United States without detection. 

Popescu originally tried to sell the bookmark for $150,000, but eventually dropped the price to $100,000.

"Today's plea is a reminder that the theft and sale of historical artifacts is a high-risk business," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations.  "ICE will continue to aggressively investigate cases to target this type of illegal activity."

The bookmark bears Hitler's image and is believed to have been a gift from Hitler's longtime mistress, Eva Braun, in 1943.  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 from Braun:  "My Adolf, don't worry…(the defeat)…was only an inconvenience that will not break your certainty of victory."

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.  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 to cover the value of the bookmark.

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.

For additional information or to obtain photographs of the bookmark, please contact Lorie Dankers, public affairs officer for ICE, at (206) 553-0353 or lorie.dankers@dhs.gov.