BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- A collector admitted stealing hundreds of Indian artifacts from museums in Connecticut and Massachusetts, authorities said.
George B. McLaughlin, 48, of North Oxford, Mass., said Monday he stole the artifacts from six museums during 1986. The stolen items were valued at about $800,000, authorities said.
McLaughlin admitted the thefts in pleading guilty to one federal charge stemming from the Nov. 25, 1986, theft of 13 West Indian and North American Indian artifacts from Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven.
As part of a plea agreement, McLaughlin also admitted having stolen artifacts from five museums in Massachusetts. McLaughlin did not sell the items but kept them for his private collection, authorities said.
McLaughlin pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport to one count of transporting stolen artifacts from Connecticut to Massachusetts. He faces up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines when sentenced June 28.
McLaughlin also agreed to cooperate with the FBI when it meets June 9 with representatives of the six museums to return the stolen artifas.
The artifacts were recovered after the FBI determined McLaughlin was responsible for the thefts at Peabody.
Museums nationwide were alerted and the FBI located McLaughlin after he attempted to enter the Carnegie-Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh, authorities said.
The stolen artifacts have been turned over to the FBI or were seized by agents in a February 1987 search at the Pennsylvania home of McLaughlin's parents, said U.S. Attorney Stanley A. Twardy Jr.
In the Peabody case, McLaughlin was given access to non-public laboratory and storage rooms by staff members after he told them he wanted to discuss donating a collection of artifacts.
McLaughlin admitted stealing ax heads, a tool used for crushing leaves and arrow heads from Peabody, which is operated by Yale University, Twardy said.
The museums in Massachusetts where thefts occurred were: Bronson Museum, Attleboro; Memorial Hall Museum, Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield; Robert S. Peabody Foundation for Archaeology at the Phillips Academy, Andover; Springfield Science Museum and the Worcester Historical Museum.