ISHOF memorabilia recovered.
The International Swimming Hall of Fame has recovered the most valuable parts of its memorabilia collection after a temporary employee allegedly stole them from the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based museum.
Paul Nicholas Christow, 48, was filling in for his brother, a museum maintenance worker with a broken leg, last autumn. Police said Christow, who was arraigned in January on charges of theft and trafficking of stolen goods, swiped between $400,000 and $500,000 worth of medals, trophies and lithographs. Many of the Olympic medals lifted were donated by Johnny Weissmuller when the museum opened in 1965.
Posing as a lawyer liquidating an estate, Christow allegedly sold the items on eBay through a rare coins dealer in nearby Hollywood, Fla. The online buyer, an Olympic memorabilia collector in North Carolina, contacted ISHOF, asking the museum if it would be selling any more of its collection. The museum then notified the police, who nabbed Christow in a sting at the rare coins shop.
"Since he was arraigned, most of the items have been returned," said Bob Duenkel, executive director of ISHOF. "There are still some medals and sculptures missing, valued in the $60,000 range. The most prized thing that is still at large is the 1912 Olympic wreath and the gold medal of its winner, Belle Moore."
Duenkel believes the missing items will be found eventually. "The hope is that [Christow] has the rest stashed somewhere," he said.
This is the latest in a string of upsets for the Hall of Fame. In 2004, 16 athletes asked that their medals and names be disassociated from ISHOF, citing poor security and leadership. In addition, numerous supporters were angry with former President/CEO Sam Freas for trying to arrange deals with other cities to move the facility.
Since Freas retired in November 2004, many people have been appeased. "The fact that we've had a change of leadership seems to have had a positive effect," Duenkel said. "We're also working on keeping our main facility in Fort Lauderdale."
As for security, Duenkel said the company has enhanced its alarm system and is only using bonded individuals for its maintenance work. "Things have definitely improved," he said.