SAFE Beacon Awards Honoring Robert E. Goldman, David Hall, James E. McAndrew and Robert K. Wittman

Friday October 29, 2010
Gerald W. Lynch Theater, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
899 Tenth Ave, New York, New York 6:30PM – 9:30PM

On Friday, October 29, 2010 over 120 people packed into John Jay College’s Gerald W. Lynch Theater in New York City for the sold-out, fourth-ever SAFE Beacon Awards.

On this evening, SAFE honored four exceptional law enforcement officials who have fought on the frontlines of the illicit antiquities trade: Senior Special Agent for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) James McAndrew, U.S. Attorney David Hall, former federal prosecutor and private practicing attorney Robert Goldman, and retired FBI Agent Robert Wittman.

SAFE’s founder Cindy Ho set the tone for the evening in her opening remarks, reiterating the organization’s mission to promote the stewardship of cultural objects which hold invaluable information about our shared history. She then introduced Dr. Richard Leventhal of the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, who co-sponsored the event. Dr. Leventhal turned his attention to the audience, emphasizing the importance of public awareness and echoing what David Hall would say later in the night: “Every sleuth has a tipster.”

Marion Forsyth Werkheiser of the newly formed Cultural Heritage Partners moderated the lively panel, “A Fight for the Future” which at times, felt more like a reunion than a lecture, as all four Beacon Award winners have worked together on various cases and training programs.

The awardees’ brief individual presentations gave way to a spirited discussion about some of the challenges they have faced in the field. The four winners touched on the unfortunate difficulty in finding archaeologists, conservators and other academics who are willing to use their expertise to identify illicit antiquities. They also recognized that there was no shortage of art crime cases in the U.S., but the self-motivated government agents and federal attorneys who pursue those investigations must do so alongside murder cases, drug busts, car thefts and other work.

Priceless-NY Times Best Seller Click on image to order

Obstacles aside, the awardees beamed while talking about the immense satisfaction that goes along with recovering objects that are part of a larger historical puzzle. And though these officials have collectively rescued hundreds of millions of dollars worth of stolen art, they were emphatic that cultural artifacts are inherently priceless – the irresistible word of the night, as the award winners celebrated Wittman’s bestselling memoir of the same name, which he signed for audience members during the reception.

“Objects that you recover are going to be here for future generations,” Goldman said, and similarly, David Hall recalled Hippocrates’ famous maxim: “Ars langa, vita brevis” (Art lasts, life is brief).

We would like to thank everyone who helped make October 29 an outstanding evening. SAFE again applauds Goldman, Hall, McAndrew, and Wittman for their exceptional work in the field and joins them in their hope that one day, their line work won’t be so exceptional.

We also wish to thank every one of the attendees who responded to our exit survey (an impressive 50%) and revealed that prior to the event, half of them were not familiar or only somewhat familiar with the issues. For this reason, this event’s outcome was especially rewarding given our mission to raise public awareness. We are grateful for the feedback we received, including the following:

  • “I enjoyed the presentations. Very informative! Never studied on this topic. Tonight I have learned and it has become a great interest to me.”
  • “I was not aware the scale and impact of looting. I am shocked!”
  • “Great very informative and entertaining.”
  • “The panelists were so compelling.”
  • “The presentation and the information were great and useful for the future.”
  • “Very interesting presentation. I’m more aware of the art business now.”
  • “This event is significant and should be shared with the public!”

Also, special thanks to the following:

Elizabeth Gilgan, Deanna Baker, Megan Gannon, Marc Balcells, Ellen Belcher, Glenda Chao, Ana Escobedo, Luke Glover, Athena Hsieh, Damien Huffe, Laura Moore, Tracy Musacchio, Heather Otto, Margaret Rivera, Rebecca Rushfield, Brooke Todsen, Gabriele Ursitti, Adam Witham, Hyuna Yong

Robert GoldmanRobert E. Goldman Attorney Goldman’s nationwide private practice focuses on two areas: representing individuals, institutions, and countries in matters relating to art, antiquities, and collections law; and white collar criminal investigations and defense. Before he established his own firm in 2006, Goldman was a federal prosecutor for 19 years in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Prior to that, he served over 9 years as a state prosecutor. Beginning in 1988, Goldman teamed up with the F.B.I. to investigate museum and art theft. In 1996, he brought the first prosecution under the new Theft of Major Artwork (Theft from Museum) statute, resulting in the first federal convictions under this law. Based on his prosecutions, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania led the nation in the number of prosecutions brought under this statute enacted to protect our national treasures. Goldman was involved in the recovery of more than $150 million worth of stolen art and cultural property, including an ancient Peruvian gold backflap looted from a royal burial site in Peru, a Colt revolver owned by Teddy Roosevelt, and artwork by Mary Cassatt and Peter Brueghel.

David HallDavid Hall has worked as the Special Prosecutor for the FBI’s Art Crime Team since 2003. He has prosecuted numerous cases in the art theft world, including the theft of three Norman Rockwell paintings, The Spirit of ’76, So Much Concern, and A Hasty Retreat; several Picasso and Chagall Etchings; and a counterfeit Andrew Wyeth painting. In addition to his work with the FBI, Hall serves as an Assistant United States Attorney and as a Captain in the U.S. Navy Reserve. He has a M.B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1991, he wrote a book called The Reagan Wars: A Constitutional Perspective on War Powers and the Presidency, which examined the constitutionality of the Reagan administration. He has won the Department of Homeland Security/Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Excellence in Law Enforcement Award.

James McAndrewJames E. McAndrew has worked with the U.S. government for more than 27 years, first with the United States Customs Service and then with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). He is an expert on international art and antiquity investigations and on customs and international trade law. In 2004, Senior Special Agent McAndrew developed and implemented the DHS’s national training program titled “Fighting Illicit Traffic in Cultural Property at U.S. Ports of Entry.” To date, more than 400 Customs and Border Protection Officers and 125 Special Agents from 39 ports of entry successfully completed the program. McAndrew’s most notable cases were his 2003 criminal conviction of antiquities dealer Hicham Aboutaam and his 2007 arrest of U.S. Army pilot Edward “Dutch”Johnson for attempting to sell 100 stolen Egyptian artifacts from a pre-dynastic site known as Ma’adi. He has recovered more than 2000 cultural artifacts, including the Diorite Statue of Entemena (circa 2400 B.C., Iraq) the Roman Marble Head of Emperor Trajan (circa 100 A.D., Italy), and the Idol of Dasha Avatar Varaha (circa 9th century A.D., India).

Robert K. WittmanRobert K. Wittman After working years in the agricultural journalism field, Robert Wittman turned his dream of working for the FBI into a reality in 1988. Based out of the Philadelphia office, Wittman worked with Bob Bazin on the 1988 theft of Rodin’s sculpture, Mask of the Man with the Broken Nose, from Philadelphia’s Rodin Museum. The case made him realize his desire to pursue a career in art crime. This decision catapulted him to the forefront of the field and Wittman had a successful 20 year career with the FBI and was instrumental in creating the FBI’s Art Crime Team. During his years in art crime, he successfully recovered $225 million worth of stolen art and cultural property, including the Pre-Columbian backflap from the Royal Tomb of the Lord of Sipan in Peru, Geronimo’s eagle feather war bonnet, and a crystal ball from the Imperial Palace in Beijing. Now retired from the FBI, Wittman is president of the international art security firm Robert Wittman Inc.

“Very informative! Never studied this topic. Tonight I have learned and it has become a great interest to me.”

E.J., New York City