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Artifacts dealer sent to jail for taking books, photo from BYU

Artifacts dealer sent to jail for taking books, photo from BYU

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PROVO — A dealer of Mormon artifacts who stole historical books and a photograph from a BYU archive and sold some of them to a collector is headed to jail after returning about $3,000 he made from the job.

A judge on Wednesday ordered Kevin Schuwer, 29, to therapy, an additional month in jail and three years of probation. Schuwer, a former BYU student from Denmark, faces deportation and is expected to remain behind bars for longer as federal immigration proceedings play out.

Schuwer had been struggling to cover medical costs for his young daughter with spina bifida, a birth defect that can cause physical or intellectual disabilities, when he took and sold the artifacts, his attorney Kate Conyers said.

"I think he got desperate," she said after the hearing.

Prosecutors see it differently.

"He was systematically taking advantage of people and exploiting people for monetary gain," said deputy Utah County attorney Brian Miller. He said Schuwer has swindled other collectors who were too embarrassed to testify in court or didn't want the legal hassle.

A shackled Schuwer, who has been held in the Utah County Jail for about three months, told the judge Wednesday, "I understand that the acts I took were a crime and it was a terrible act and I understand that. And I am trying to take the ownership of it.”

Police said he stole eight books from the BYU Library's Special Collection from September to November, checking them out, putting their bar codes into other books and returning the fake ones to the library. He replaced an original picture of Porter Rockwell, the bodyguard for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founder Joseph Smith, with a fake copy of the same photo, according to prosecutors.

Schuwer then sold the original photo to a collector in Utah County, according to court documents.

Fourth District Judge Lynn Davis said his deception "took skill," but also noted that Schuwer has a clean record and has already paid the court $3,125 to pass on to the collector. The judge warned that a prison sentence of up to five years will be imposed if Schuwer doesn't comply with not-yet-determined terms of his probation.

Miller said the case has frustrated prosecutors, who have fewer tools to seek heftier sentences than guidelines recommend following 2015 justice reforms in Utah.

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Schuwer was originally charged with engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony, plus theft and theft by deception, both third-degree felonies. As part of an agreement with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty last month to two reduced counts of wrongful appropriation, third-degree felonies.

He has a similar pending case in Logan, where he has entered the same pleas after prosecutors said he stole "a portrait of a prominent LDS apostle, Orson F. Whitney," from a Utah State University special collection.

In a separate civil proceeding, he was ordered to pay nearly $700,000 to a man to whom he had sold a counterfeit 1835 Latter-day Saint hymnal and a counterfeit 1849 Mormon gold coin, court documents show.

Schuwer is scheduled to be sentenced in the Logan case on March 4.

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