Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2019 Issue

Utah Man Charged in Large Thefts and Frauds Concerning Collectible Mormon Books and Artifacts

Photograph of Orson Whitney.

Kevin Mark Ronald Schuwer finds himself in a lot of trouble today. Schuwer, a former student at Brigham Young University, has plied the lucrative trade of selling artifacts related to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church. Its historic books and artifacts are highly collectible and known to bring high prices. There was one problem with Schuwer's participation in the trade. He was selling stolen or fraudulent material.

 

He drew the attention of authorities on the basis of one particular theft, which was documented by video cameras. According to an arrest warrant, Schuwer entered the special collections room at the library of Utah State University. Cameras show him filling out a registration form that allows him to gain access to some historic photographs. The affidavit for the arrest warrant continues, "Kevin Schuwer is then seen on camera at 3:31 PM on 10/19/2018 examining a picture later identified as a portrait of a prominent LDS apostle, Orson F. Whitney." Continuing, it says, "Schuwer then manipulates a storage box containing other pictures in what appears to be an effort to obstruct the view of passers-by. Kevin Schuwer then acts as if he is going to put the picture back into its protective envelope. He instead passes the photo under the envelope and slides it into his gray laptop case which is on the table next to him." The video shows Schuwer then putting the empty envelope back in the pile of photos, and at 4:00, he leaves the library.

 

Schuwer didn't waste any time attempting to cash in on his illicitly acquired photograph. That same evening, he contacts two potential buyers. "Victim A" quickly purchases the photograph. However, he also begins researching the signed photograph and discovers it was listed as belonging to the collection of the Utah State Historical Society. Realizing they rarely sell artifacts from their collection, he returns the photograph for a refund.

 

Schuwer again doesn't waste any time. He now sells it and four other photos to "Victim B," in California, for $1,500. Meanwhile, "Victim A" contacts Ron Fox, an expert in LDS (Latter Day Saints) artifacts, who in turn contacts Utah State University about the photograph. The Utah State Library checks its collection and finds the empty envelope. They have the registration form filled out by Schuwer and the video of his actions. "Victim B" sends the photograph back and they identify it as the one missing from their collection.

 

It turns out this was just the tip of the iceberg. "Victim B" had also purchased a rare photograph of Porter Rockwell (Joseph Smith's bodyguard) for $11,500 from Schuwer. That picture belongs to the Daughters of the Pioneers Museum in Salt Lake City. Meanwhile, he quickly agreed to a judgment in a case brought by Tracy Rawle, in which Rawle was awarded $694,701 for purchasing various fake items, including a counterfeit 1835 hymnal for $65,000 and a counterfeit Mormon gold coin for $60,000.

 

Additionally, Schuwer was charged with selling various items for others but pocketing the proceeds himself. That included a King James Bible once owned by King James for $105,000 and an 1830 Book of Mormon for $105,000. The latter had belonged to the aforementioned collector Tracy Rawle. Rawle was getting defrauded coming and going. Court documents indicate that Schuwer consented to this judgment to avoid paying costs of litigation and likely punitive damages on top of returning the wrongfully withheld funds.

 

This is not all the crimes alleged against Schuwer. He is said to have stolen eight books from the Brigham Young University Library by borrowing them, and then removing their bar codes, placing the bar codes on different books, and then returning those substitute books instead. He is alleged to have also taken a photograph from BYU and replaced it with a photograph of the photograph.

 

Schuwer has been charged with three felonies, with potential prison sentences of 5, 5, and 10 years. Meanwhile, he still faces charges in other jurisdictions as well.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.
  • Bonhams, July 15-25: THE AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION OF ISRAEL WITKOWER. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: GEORGE WASHINGTON SIGNED DISCHARGE. June 9, 1783. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: "Shhhhh!" A DAVID SHANNON ILLUSTRATION FROM DAVID GETS IN TROUBLE. $2,500 - $3,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: PICASSO, PABLO. Le Carmen des Carmen. Paris, 1964. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: RARE AUTOGRAPH OF AMERICAN NAVAL HERO CAPTAIN JAMES MUGFORD. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: KARA WALKER SILHOUETTES FOR TONI MORRISON'S FIVE POEMS. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FIRST APPEARANCE OF PINOCCHIO IN ENGLISH. COLLODI, CARLO.New York, 1892. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: BONAPARTE, JOSEPHINE. Autograph Note (unsigned) in French. $1,000 - $1,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FROST ON MATTHEW ARNOLD.Autograph Letter Signed to Adams, July 27, 1934. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: ELIAS BOUDINOT'S COPY OF BARLOW'S COLUMBIAN EPIC. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A SIGNED HART CRANE BROOKLYN BRIDGE POSTCARD TO EDWARD DAHLBERG. $600 - $800
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A STOCK CERTIFICATE SIGNED BY THE "QUEEN OF WALL STREET," HETTY GREEN. $700 - $900
  • Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: U.S. / European Shipping Archive 1800-1814. The Widow Bermingham & Sons Collection. €7,000 to €10,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Bunreacht na hÉireann. Constitution of Ireland. An important copy of the First Printing of De Valera’s new Constitution, approved in 1938. Signed by the Constitution Cabinet. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: A Rare Complete Run of the Cuala Press Broadsides. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Grose (Francis). The Antiquities of Ireland, 2vols. folio London (for S. Hooper) 1791. Magnificent Hand-Coloured Copy - Only 25 Copies. €3,000 to €5,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Cantillon (Richard). Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en General, Traduit de l'Anglois, Sm. 8vo London (Fletcher Gyles) 1756. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Gregory, (Lady Augusta). Spreading the News: The Rising of the Moon: The Poorhouse (with Douglas Hyde). Being Vol. IX of the Abbey Theatre Series. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Lavery (Lady Hazel). A moving series of three A.L.S. and a Telegram to Gen. Eoin O'Duffy, July-August 1927, expressing her grief at the death of Kevin O'Higgins. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Dampier (Wm.) Nouveau Voyage Autour du Monde, ou l'on descrit en particulier l'Isthme de l'Amerique…, 2 vols. in one, Amsterdam, 1698. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Howell (James). Instructions for Forreine Travel Shewing by what Cours, and in what Compasse of Time…, London, 1642. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 8vo, L. (Bloomsbury) 1999, First Edn., First Printing of Deluxe Collectors Edn. Signed. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: James (Wm.) A Full and Correct Account of the Military Occurrences of The Late War Between Great Britain and The United States of America. 2 vols. Lond. 1818. €650 to €900.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: The Laws of the United States, Published by Authority, 3 vols. Philadelphia (Richard Folwell) 1796. €600 to €800.

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