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Plea deal for author accused of stealing historical items

| May 21, 2024 7:00 AM

HELENA — An author accused of stealing items of significant historical value from the Montana Historical Society, including letters by the wife of famed Western artist Charlie “C.M.” Russell, and then selling them online, has reached a plea agreement, according to documents filed May 3 in federal court.

Brian Anthony D’Ambrosio of Santa Fe, New Mexico, has agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of theft of major artwork. The maximum penalty is 10 years, a $250,000 fine, up to three years of supervised release and a $100 special assessment, documents filed in U.S. District Court in Helena state.

He has also agreed to “complete restitution,” according to the filing.

His change of plea hearing will be June 3 in front of U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris in Great Falls. The U.S. Attorneys Office in Montana is prosecuting the case.

The court documents note the judge has the option of accepting or rejecting the agreement.

D’Ambrosio originally pleaded not guilty in January after being accused of stealing letters by the wife of famed Western artist Charlie “C.M.” Russell and selling them online.

He was also accused of stealing culturally significant items over 100 years old and worth more than $5,000 from the Montana Historical Society from about April 2022 to September 2023, documents state in the indictment filed Nov. 2.

According to authorities, the FBI used an undercover agent to contact him as a would-be purchaser of the items, even though he claimed to be doing research for the historical society.

Other items included a 1926 Crow Indian program on the 50th anniversary of the Custer Fight, a 1905 Centennial Brewing letter from Bozeman, and an 1889 Montana Society of the Framers of the Constitution flag and program.

He allegedly then sold and tried to sell the items on eBay for profit, authorities said.

— Independent Record