Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2015 Issue

Pennsylvania Woman Arrested for Theft of Prints and Books Valued at Over $650,000

8a18c67a-97d9-4ee5-8352-ea3527efcc85

Steve McCurry's Afghan Girl on the cover of National Geographic.

An arrest has been made in the case of a major theft of prints and books in Pennsylvania. This is not the typical case of library theft, or stealing from a collector. These prints and books were stolen from the person who created them. The accused was a trusted employee.

 

The victim of the over half million dollar theft is Steve McCurry, owner of Steve McCurry Studios in Exton, Pennsylvania. McCurry is a photographer, and his photographs, while often timely, are also works of art. They command substantial prices. His most famous photograph is known as Afghan Girl. It appeared on the cover of the June 1985 edition of National Geographic. The wide, haunting eyes of the girl portray the human troubles of a troubled land. Back then, that morass belonged to the Soviet Union, not us, a reminder that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

 

According to the office of Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan, Bree DeStephano was arrested for theft and other offenses. Ms. DeStephano worked in McCurry's studio as Manager of Fine Art Print Sales. According to the complaint, she stole various limited edition prints from the studio from May 2012 through November 2013. She then engaged in a conspiracy to dispose of the prints with Brandon Donohue, who was a manager at the Open Shutter Gallery in far off Durango, Colorado. McCurry would have been unlikely to notice the the sale of prints through the trendy but isolated Colorado mountain town.

 

The DA's complaint says that Ms. DeStephano would order prints from McCurry's Long Island City studio and have them shipped to Exton. She would then alter print run numbers and inventory records. They would then be sold with Ms. DeStephano reaping the rewards. The 50 stolen prints were estimated to be worth $628,000.

 

Additionally, Ms. DeStephano is charged with stealing 233 of McCurry's books. These items are valued at $23,196.14. She allegedly sold these using different aliases on various websites.

 

While the arrest was just made this past month, investigators have evidently been on the case since November 2013, when the alleged thefts were said to have stopped. The November 13, 2013, issue of the Durango Herald reported that Open Shutter Gallery's owner had said at the time that Mr. Donahue no longer worked there, having left for a personal issue she declined to discuss, and said that they were working with authorities. The DA said that Ms. DeStephano was terminated from her position as soon as the criminal allegations arose, which we will infer means November 2013. In his statement, District Attorney Hogan credited Mr. McCurry and his staff with doing "an excellent job of reporting this theft and cooperating with the District Attorney’s Office. As a result, law enforcement was able to uncover the scope of the defendant’s thefts and recover photographs and prints."

 

The District Attorney emphasized the injustice of the theft, explaining, "The theft of intellectual property, like photographs, is an ever-growing problem. In order to take photographs like the Afghan Girl, Steve McCurry was exposed to extraordinary risks, tremendous costs, and spent years of his career. Then the defendant casually abused her position of trust to make some easy money, without a thought to the damage to Mr. McCurry."

 

The defendant is 32 years old and lives in York, Pennsylvania. Bail was set at $250,000. The District Attorney added that Brandon Donahue will be charged by authorities in Colorado.

 

In 2012, a unique (1 of 1) signed copy of an Afghan Girl print sold at Christie's for $178,900. The Afghan girl, a refugee in Pakistan at the time she was photographed by McCurry, later returned to her dirt poor border town in Afghanistan's high mountains. She will not earn anything close to this amount of money in her entire lifetime. It is a strange world in which we live.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Sergio Trujillo Magnenat, <i>Bogotá 1938 / IV Centenario / Juegos Deportivos Bolivarianos,</i> 1938. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>McQueen Drives Porsche,</i> designer unknown, 1970. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>Joe Bridge, <i>Bignan / A Des Ailes,</i> 1921. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Graham Simmons, <i>The Army Isn’t All Work,</i> 1919. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Leonetto Cappiello, <i>Je ne fume que le nil,</i> 1912. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>Attack of the 50 ft. Woman,</i> designer unknown, 1958. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Raymond Tooby, <i>Festival Guiness / Have You Tried One Yet?,</i> 1952. $600 to $900.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Francisco Tamagno, <i>Terrot & Co. / Dijon / Cycles Motorettes,</i> 1909. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>A. Hori, Oakland / General Motors, circa 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> James Montgomery Flagg, <i>Travel? Adventure? Answer – Join the Marines!,</i> circa 1918. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions