WWW-Virtual Library: History
Map History / History of Cartography: THE Gateway to the Subject

WWW-VL Main Catalogue WWW-VL History Central Catalogue
(main menu)
What the
site is
Map History

U.S. ATTORNEY Press Release

[Page posted 29 July 2006]

Other court documents from 22 June 2006   |   Newspaper (etc) articles relating to the Forbes Smiley case

From: Carson, Thomas (USACT) [mailto:Thomas.Carson@usdoj.gov]
Sent: Thursday, June 22, 2006 5:23 PM

U.S. Department of Justice

United States Attorney
District of Connecticut

Connecticut Financial Center
157 Church Street
New Haven, Connecticut 06510

< www.usdoj.gov/usao/ct >

June 22, 2006

Tom Carson
Public Information Office
(203) 821-3722
(203) 996-1393 (cell)


Kevin J. O’Connor, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, Kimberly K. Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Michael J. Dearington, State’s Attorney for New Haven, today announced that EDWARD FORBES SMILEY III, age 50 (DOB 4/13/56), of 340 North Road, Chilmark, Massacusetts, pleaded guilty today before United States District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven to a federal charge of theft of major artwork. In pleading guilty, SMILEY has also admitted to the theft of an additional 96 rare maps that he removed from libraries and other institutions around the country and the United Kingdom, and then sold to private dealers or collectors. Most of these maps have since been recovered.

“I want to commend the FBI, and all who assisted in this investigation, for scouring the globe at a great expense of time, effort and financial resources in order to return these stolen maps to their rightful owners,” U.S. Attorney O’Connor stated. “This case should serve as a cautionary tale for institutions that house rare and valuable books, maps and other cultural artifacts. While most individuals who have access to these artifacts have legitimate scholarly purposes and treat them with respect, there are a dishonest few who will behave criminally when given the chance. Hopefully, security procedures in these institutions have been, and will continue to be, improved so that these artifacts can be protected and enjoyed by all for generations to come.”

According to documents filed with the Court and statements made in court, on June 8, 2005, SMILEY visited the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in New Haven and requested to view several books containing historical maps. As a professional dealer of rare maps, SMILEY often visited institutions with significant map collections. At approximately 11:00 a.m., the head of public services for the Beinecke Library reported finding an Exacto knife blade on the floor of the Rare Document Reading Room. She also noticed a man in the reading room looking at books containing rare maps, and, after reviewing the library register, identified the man as SMILEY. She then searched for SMILEY’s name on the internet, discovered that he was a dealer in rare maps and notified the security supervisor for the Beinecke Library, who began video and in- person surveillance of SMILEY. The security supervisor then called the Yale University Police Department, which dispatched a detective to the scene.

At approximately 3:00 p.m., SMILEY exited the library. A few blocks away, the detective confronted SMILEY who revealed that he had seven maps in his possession: (1) “Typvs Orbis Terrarvm”; (2) “Part of America, Part of China”; (3) “Vninersi Orbis, sevterreni glo”; (4) “Septentrio vniuersalis descriptio”; (5) “New America”; (6) “Lac Svperievr”; and (7) “Carte generalle de la nouvelle France.” SMILEY was arrested at that time.

On June 9, 2005, the Beinecke Library confirmed with the Yale University Police Department that the Library was missing certain maps, including items (1), (2), and (3), which had been a part of books checked out by SMILEY on the previous day. On June 15, 2005, a book appraiser and advisor to the Beinecke Library appraised the maps and confirmed that the above listed items were stolen from the Beinecke Library based on markings unique to the maps and other evidence. Today, SMILEY admitted stealing those items.

Since the time of his arrest, SMILEY has cooperated in the investigation led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office. To date, SMILEY has identified 97 maps that he stole from a number of universities and libraries in the U.S. and abroad between January 1998 and June 2005. In addition to the Beinecke Library, the museums from which thefts occurred were the Boston Public Library, the British Library in London, the Houghton Library at Harvard University, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Newberry Library in Chicago, the New York Public Library, and the Yale University Sterling Map Library. Approximately 86 maps have been physically recovered by law enforcement, six maps are in the custody of other known individuals who have not returned the maps and five maps are either lost or their location is unknown at the present time.

The Government and SMILEY have agreed that, of the 97 maps that SMILEY has admitted stealing, 18 maps – which the Government believes to have a combined fair market value of $805,200 – can be proven to have been stolen independent of SMILEY’s cooperation and admissions. The Government estimates the total value of the 97 maps stolen to be in excess of $3 million.

“The identification of Smiley and the recovery of 86 rare maps, valued at more than $3 million, would not have been possible without the cooperation of the victim libraries,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Mertz stated. “In addition, the Yale University Police Department, Boston Police Department, Harvard Police Department, London Metropolitan Police, and the Security Department at the New York Public Library provided invaluable assistance to this investigation.”

The charge that SMILEY specifically pleaded guilty to relates to his theft of “Vninersi Orbis, sevterreni glo,” a map of the world published in or about 1578. The map has an estimated retail value of $150,000.

“I want to credit the Yale University Police Department and Beinecke Library staff,” State’s Attorney Dearington said. “Without their initial investigation, this guilty plea and the recovery of dozens of rare maps may never have occurred.”

Following the guilty plea proceeding in federal court, SMILEY was expected to plead guilty in state court to larceny charges in relation to the theft of several maps from the Beinecke Library.

Judge Arterton has scheduled sentencing for, September 21, 2006, at which time SMILEY faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of up to $1,610,400.

This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Yale University Police Department. The Boston Police Department, Security Division for the New York Public Library, the Harvard University Police Department and the London Metropolitan Police assisted with the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher W. Schmeisser.

Top of page

HOME (main menu)  |  Thefts menu  |  Index   |   Sitemap   |   What this site is about   |   What's New