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Pritchard Pleads Guilty; Former Victim Seeks Her Artifacts

Kathryn Jorgensen

- (October 2007) NORRISTOWN, Pa. - As Russ Pritchard III awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to theft by deception and deceptive business practices, a former client, Elaine Patterson, is trying again to recover Civil War artifacts he took from her.

Pritchard pleaded guilty Aug. 29 in Montgomery County of stealing antiques worth more than $100,000 that were consigned by six sellers to his auction company in Bryn Mawr, Pa.

The charges relate to incidents in 2004 and 2005. At that time one of the complainants told Civil War News that she contacted Pritchard after reading a press release about one of his auctions in an antiques newspaper. He operated as Main Line Auction and, later, as Bryn Mawr Auction Co.

By the time the complainant was alerted to eBay forum discussion about Pritchard and the Civil War News online archive of stories about his previous fraud convictions he had taken her antiques, telling her the items were worth much less than she claimed, that he sold them for little money or that he couldn't sell them.

Previous Lawsuits

Back in 1999 a U.S. District Court jury in Philadelphia found Pritchard and American Ordnance Preservation Association (AOPA), the business he owned with his father, Russ Pritchard II, and George Juno, guilty of fraud and awarded George E. Pickett V an $800,000 judgment.

The background of this suit was that Pritchard had courted Pickett in 1995 to buy artifacts of his great-great-grandfather, Gen. George Pickett, for the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg. Three years later Pickett learned by chance that the relics he sold for $87,500 were worth much more. In fact, the museum had paid $880,000 for them.

In March 2001 the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia filed 13 counts against Pritchard and Juno that included mail fraud, wire fraud, interstate transportation of stolen property, theft from museum and tampering with a witness. Juno pleaded guilty in May 2001.

Subsequently a 22-count superseding indictment was filed in May 2001 charging the two Pritchards with fraudulent schemes.

In July 2002 Pritchard III was sentenced to a year in federal prison followed by three years' supervised release and restitution of $830,539 to be paid to four individuals, two of whom were Pickett and Elaine Patterson. He went into the auction business after his release.

Some of the fraud in this suit related to Pritchard and Juno's appearances as appraisers on the PBS program "Antiques Roadshow." They staged at least two on-air appraisals "to enhance their reputation as experts in the appraisal of military artifacts and to attract from the viewing potential sellers of military artifacts to AOPA," in the words of the U.S. Attorney's office.

"Antiques Roadshow" officials were well aware of the earlier fraud charges, having been contacted by Civil War News reporters and readers.

Pritchard and Juno were finally dropped by "Roadshow" on March 29, 2000, after Civil War News reported staged TV appraisals and the Boston Herald revealed the staged appraisals in front-page coverage that made national headlines.

Patterson Artifacts

Elaine Patterson, wife of the late Don Patterson, a well-known Civil War reenactor and collector, was one of the fraud victims cited in the 2001 case against Pritchard. She and her husband invested in Civil War items, especially textiles, even taking a loan to buy a Confederate greatcoat.

With the help of videotapes of the collection, she recently documented some of the identified and rare items that Pritchard took in the hopes collectors might recognize them. She is offering a reward(s) for information leading to recovery. Identity will be kept confidential if desired. She can be reached at (410) 742-2682 or (877) 742-2682.

"I still feel Pritchard raped me financially and emotionally. He robbed me of my retirement security, my children's inheritance and our family's desire to open a family-operated museum. I am sickened almost every day thinking about how he took advantage of me and what could have been," she says.

The FBI detailed the Patterson fraud when the indictments were announced in 2001. Pritchard III "made false representations that the Patterson Collection of Civil War artifacts would be permanently displayed at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, fraudulently obtained portions of the Patterson Collection for resale to a private dealer."

One of the items was a rare Confederate greatcoat that Pritchard claimed was worthless, which he sold for personal gain. He was also charged with taking uniform ornaments from a Confederate cavalry officer's frock coat and putting them on a coat that he owned to increase its value for resale.

Pritchard got entrą©e to the collection when he wrote to Elaine Patterson after her husband's death in 1995. He said he was buying items for the Harrisburg museum. She invited him to do an appraisal, unaware of his connection to Juno, whom her husband did not trust.

Pritchard took 174 artifacts, some for the museum and others supposedly to authenticate and stabilize. Two independent appraisers placed their value at $500,000 to $1 million. Patterson has received less than $3,000 of the court-ordered restitution.

Partial Inventory

The missing Patterson artifacts include:

Confederate greatcoat, which had wrapped the body of a 26th Virginia soldier who died at Elmira prison. It had two Virginia buttons, two infantry buttons and one bone button and hand-sewn buttonholes.

Two late 19th-century capes. One Union officer's cape with infantry buttons, black velvet collar with sky blue lining and a wool cape.

Union artillery officer's trousers ID'd to W. Jacobs. Union officer's coat of Lt. Col. S.L. Rice with shoulder boards and watch pocket.

Rare tarred linen kepi cover with buttonholes on side. Early war Union frock coat of Capt. William McCoy of Sherman's staff, with small shoulder boards and New York buttons.

White pants of surgeon C.D. Wilcox, with bloodstains on thigh. Officer's bummer cap, Co. K, 1st regiment, with officer button. Handmade cotton Confederate kepi, butternut color, cardboard visor.

Heavy artillery saber, John H. Karr, '64. Sash of Col. Farnsworth of New York, in clear package with history. Silver or pewter pocket watch with comic etchings of Civil War scenes.

Pocket watch, John Jordon, Co. D. Field glasses attributed to Simon Cameron. Oyster knife, Capt. J.W. Dobbs, Rock Hall, Md. Original Confederate bisque of Gen. Argyle Smith's face.

.44 cal. Army Model revolver and holster, John S. Chambliss, 9th Virginia Cavalry. Knife, 2nd Maryland Cavalry, period carving. Union cavalry saber with scabbard, Scarborough, 1st Maryland Cavalry

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