Warren Lipka and his tribe of misfits were not successful in their poorly planned quest to relieve the rare book collection at Transylvania University of its Havells, but that doesn't mean others have not tried and succeeded at similar crimes.
In 1993, former Louisiana State Museum volunteer Michael Moskaluk was sentenced to 15 years in prison for being in possession of 60 or so Havells that disappeared from the museum in 1989.
A nationwide search for the works led investigators to Chicago, where two art dealers claimed to have unwittingly purchased the purloined prints.
The dealers fingered Moskaluk as the perpetrator who had sold them the goods. The accused was arrested in Vermont soon thereafter and fought extradition to New Orleans for more than two years.
Negotiations for the return of the prints took months, with one dealer offering to restore some of them and another claiming to have destroyed seven because he thought they were too damaged to repair.
Meanwhile, Moskuluk asserted that he had not stolen the works but that the state museum director had given them to him to sell — which he freely admitted doing both in the U.S. and abroad.
Moskaluk was accused of tearing the state seal from the Audubon prints, from a set of 435 that the state Legislature bought from Audubon’s widow in the early 1800s.
After his conviction, Moskaluk was held at St. Gabriel, where he died at the age of 47 in 1995 after complications from AIDS.