The former director of Long Island University's Hillwood Art Museum admitted Friday to stealing nine ancient Egyptian artifacts and pocketing $32,000 from the sale of some of them, saying he did so to seek retribution against LIU for mistreating him, including not taking action when he was subjected to anti-Semitic remarks.
In pleading guilty to the theft of the art objects, Barry Stern, 61, of Oyster Bay, acknowledged his illegal actions were "totally inappropriate" and said they were caused "by extreme anger."
Stern, who was arrested by FBI agents in September, said that after a 25-year career at the university's C.W. Post Campus in Brookville in various art-related positions and raising $18 million "in cash and artwork" for the school, he felt he had been treated shabbily and was seeking revenge. He added he had no intention to spend the money he illegally obtained and had kept it in a separate bank account. The Hillwood museum is on the Post campus.
In a lengthy statement Stern read to Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, Stern said that in 2007 he had been "subjected to what I perceived to be anti-Semitic remarks" by a new dean, but that officials higher up in the C.W. Post administration to whom he complained took no action.
The following year, Stern said, he was told his contract would not be renewed for what were said to be budgetary reasons, and meetings with officials would not get them to rescind the firing.
He next filed an age discrimination suit against the university with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, after which C.W. Post's "immediate response was to bar me from the campus on pains of arrest," Stern said.
Stern's attorney Mark Baker said after his client's pleas that the EEOC informed Stern that he should instead sue the university in civil court.
"I want to emphasize that my motivations were merely to seek retribution for what I believed to be the inappropriate manner in which I was treated after such lengthy and devoted service," Stern said.
After Stern's plea, C.W. Post Provost Paul Forestell, in a statement, said, "The university and the EEOC fully investigated Mr. Stern's claims of wrongful termination and discrimination and found the claims to be without merit. The university is pleased that the treasured artifacts from our museum will be returned."
Stern had taken the artifacts, claimed they were his personal property and sent them to the art-auction house Christie's for sale. Christie's sold several of them and sent Stern the money.
Stern faces up to 41 months in prison under the suggested federal sentencing guidelines when he is sentenced.