Antique rifle thief gets a day in jail

By Amelia Riley

Decades on from his museum heists, Thomas Gavin, 78, has been sentenced to one day in jail.

After being caught trying to sell a rare rifle dating back to the US Revolutionary War along with other stolen items, the FBI found him.

After being questioned, he admitted to dozens of robberies in the 60s and 70s, and apologised for the trouble.

“I’m sorry for all this trouble,” He said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I never really thought about it back then, and now it’s all come out.”

In July, Mr Gavin pleaded guilty to disposal of an object of cultural heritage stolen from a museum, and admitted that he stole an antique rifle, crafted by a master gunsmith in 1775 from the Valley Forge State Park Museum in 1971.

Worth more than $175,000 (£131,000), the Christian Oerter rifle is one of two rifles known to have survived with its original flint mechanism, bearing the maker’s name, place and date of manufacture. After he tried to sell the rifle and other stolen items to an antiques dealer in July 2018, the FBI found him.

When questioned by the FBI in February 2020, he admitted to stealing the rifle, along with other antique 18th and 19th-century rifles from museums across the state.

Mr Gavin was sentenced to a day in jail, along with three years of supervised release, including one year of home confinement and a $25,000 fine, along with a $23,385 restitution payment.

However, the judge noted that the statute of limitations on many of the thefts had already passed and the stolen items are worth less than the $5,000 threshold needed for federal charges.

“In my experience prosecuting these types of cases, oftentimes it’s that these individuals just want to have the thing,” said KT Newton, the assistant US attorney who prosecuted the case. “Their obsession is that they want to have them and so they take them.”

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