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Latter-day Saint antiques dealer charged with stealing rare photo

By Pat Reavy, KSL | Posted - Nov. 26, 2018 at 5:47 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — A man recently ordered to pay nearly $700,000 for selling fake Latter-day Saint artifacts has been charged with stealing a rare photo from Utah State University's library.

Kevin Mark Ronald Schuwer, 29, of Lehi, was charged Monday in 1st District Court with theft and burglary, both third-degree felonies.

On Oct. 19, police believe Schuwer went to the USU Library Special Collections and Archives and requested to see several pictures, including "a picture later identified as a portrait of a prominent LDS apostle, Orson F. Whitney. This picture of Orson F. Whitney has a statement on the front of the picture that reads, 'Yours Truly O.F. Whitney' and is dated March 21st 1873," according to charging documents.

The picture is worth between $2,000 to $3,000.

When investigators went back later to watch surveillance video taken of Schuwer in the library, they observed him pretending to put the picture back in its protective envelope, but "he instead passes the photo under the envelope and slides it into his gray laptop case which is on the table next to him," the charges state.

That night, Schuwer attempted to sell the picture to two people. The first person bought the photo but returned it for a refund after doing research and discovering "the Utah State Historical Society has rarely been known to sell or liquidate artifacts from its historical collections," according to court records.

Schuwer then sold it to a second man, the charges state. But the first buyer then contacted the second buyer and officials at USU to warn them. That's when USU went back to the library and "checked the special collections archive for the Orson F. Whitney photograph and found only an empty envelope," the charges state.

Schuwer is also being investigated for stealing rare photos from the Brigham Young University library, according to court documents.

According to a search warrant affidavit, Schuwer went to the Harold B. Lee Library on BYU's campus in October and requested to see photos in the Special Collections room.

"While looking at the photos, Schuwer removed an original photo of Porter Rockwell from its protective sleeve and replaced it with a fake copy of the same picture. Schuwer then sold the original photo to a collector in Utah County for $2,000," the warrant states.

That same buyer told police he also purchased "three rare LDS Church books" from Schuwer that all had "markings showing they were BYU property," according to the warrant served by BYU police.

The warrant also noted that the person who purchased the picture of Whitney from Schuwer, also purchased a rare picture of Porter Rockwell for $11,500 from him.

"The Porter Rockwell picture belongs to the Daughters of the Pioneers Museum in Salt Lake City, which was stolen out of a display frame and replaced with a fake," the warrant states.

Schuwer was arrested on Oct. 30 by BYU police. Also on Oct. 30, a "judgment by confession" was entered against Schuwer in 4th District Court ordering him to pay $694,701.92 to a man to whom he sold a counterfeit 1835 Latter-day Saint hymnal and a counterfeit 1849 Mormon gold coin, according to court documents.

A judgment of confession is used when "the defendant is confessing to the conduct and to the judgment in an effort to pay the plaintiff the amount wrongfully obtained by him from plaintiff, and to avoid the costs of litigation and likely punitive damage claims," court records state.

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