A woman formerly employed as a housekeeper by 85-year-old historic artifacts collector George A. D’Angelo has been arrested for stealing a bust of Benjamin Franklin valued at $3 million from his Bryn Mawr, Pa., home. Andrea Lawton, 46, was arrested Friday as she was stepping off a bus in Elkton, Md. Police say she had the bust in a burlap bag. The bust went missing in August; when D’Angelo’s son told his father the news, the elderly collector said he “stopped breathing,” adding, ”It would have been ghastly if it had not come back.”
The bust, which unfortunately sustained a crack, has not yet been reunited with its owner because the FBI is holding it for fingerprints. Lawton, who according to a probable cause affidavit had been told by D’Angelo that the bust was extremely valuable, was fired by the cleaning company days before the theft. According to the FBI, Lawton took off with the bust and went back to her hometown of Mobile, Ala., and “intended to transport it outside of Alabama in order to sell it on the black market.” The bust, made in 1778 by French sculptor, Jean-Antoine Houdon, is extremely rare. D’Angelo was incredulous at the prospect of Lawton trying to sell it: ”It’s like stealing Venus de Milo from the Louvre. What in heaven’s name would you think she was going to do with it?”
Lawton has been charged with theft, fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property. She is in custody and is scheduled for a court hearing Wednesday.