Former prosecutor brought the first prosecution under the Theft of Major Artwork statute.

Robert Goldman has been a leading figure in the prosecution of art crime cases and the recovery of stolen cultural property for nearly a quarter century. A 1977 graduate of Villanova University School of Law, he worked at the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office before joining the U.S. Department of Justice in 1987 as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He first met fellow Beacon Award recipient Robert Wittman while working on a $350,000 armored car robbery case that led to the conviction of mobster Joey Merlino. Goldman discovered that he and Wittman shared a love of history and art. A partnership soon developed.

Working with Wittman, Goldman pursued art crime with gusto. In a landmark case involving the 1996 heist of artifacts belonging to William Penn from Pennsbury Manor, Goldman was the first U.S. Attorney to press charges using the Theft of Major Artwork statute, enacted in response to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft in 1990. The Eastern District of Pennsylvania soon led the nation in the number of trials brought under this statute, with more than 30 defendants prosecuted and recovery of more than $150 million in stolen cultural property, including artworks by Francisco Goya, Mary Cassatt, Norman Rockwell and Peter Brueghel and relics belonging to Geronimo, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Andrew Jackson, John Brown, 19th century Arctic explorer Dr. Elisha Kent Kane and Gettysburg commander General George Meade. One highlight of Goldman’s career involved a 1500-year-old piece of gold body armor (a backflap) that had been stolen from the Royal Tomb of Sipan in Peru and smuggled to the U.S. Wittman made the arrest and seizure while Goldman posed as the would-be buyer (code-named “el Hombre de Oro”) and prosecuted the case. Both men received the Peruvian Order of Merit for distinguished Service from the President of Peru.

In 2005, Goldman was named Special Trial Attorney by the U.S. Department of Justice, assigned to advise the newly created FBI National Art Crime Team. In 2006, Goldman left government service and entered the private practice of law, where he continues to pursue his passion in handling art cases. Goldman has been honored with the highest accolades given to an attorney in the art crime field, including the Department of Justice Director’s Award for Superior Performance in 2001 and the Robert Burke Memorial Award for Excellence in Cultural Property presented by the Smithsonian Institution in 2006.

Objects that you recover are going to be here for future generations.Robert Goldman


On Friday, October 29, 2010 over 120 people packed into John Jay College’s Gerald W. Lynch Theater in New York City for the sold-out, fourth-ever SAFE Beacon Awards.

On this evening, SAFE honored four exceptional law enforcement officials who have fought on the frontlines of the illicit antiquities trade: Senior Special Agent for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) James McAndrew, U.S. Attorney David Hall, former federal prosecutor and private practicing attorney Robert Goldman, and retired FBI Agent Robert Wittman.

SAFE’s founder Cindy Ho set the tone for the evening in her opening remarks, reiterating the organization’s mission to promote the stewardship of cultural objects which hold invaluable information about our shared history. She then introduced Dr. Richard Leventhal of the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, who co-sponsored the event. Dr. Leventhal turned his attention to the audience, emphasizing the importance of public awareness and echoing what David Hall would say later in the night: “Every sleuth has a tipster.”

Marion Forsyth Werkheiser of the newly formed Cultural Heritage Partners moderated the lively panel, “A Fight for the Future” which at times, felt more like a reunion than a lecture, as all four Beacon Award winners have worked together on various cases and training programs.

The awardees’ brief individual presentations gave way to a spirited discussion about some of the challenges they have faced in the field. The four winners touched on the unfortunate difficulty in finding archaeologists, conservators and other academics who are willing to use their expertise to identify illicit antiquities. They also recognized that there was no shortage of art crime cases in the U.S., but the self-motivated government agents and federal attorneys who pursue those investigations must do so alongside murder cases, drug busts, car thefts and other work.

“Objects that you recover are going to be here for future generations,” Goldman said, and similarly, David Hall recalled Hippocrates’ famous maxim: “Ars langa, vita brevis” (Art lasts, life is brief).Obstacles aside, the awardees beamed while talking about the immense satisfaction that goes along with recovering objects that are part of a larger historical puzzle. And though these officials have collectively rescued hundreds of millions of dollars worth of stolen art, they were emphatic that cultural artifacts are inherently priceless – the irresistible word of the night, as the award winners celebrated Wittman’s bestselling memoir of the same name, which he signed for audience members during the reception.

We would like to thank everyone who helped make October 29 an outstanding evening. SAFE again applauds Goldman, Hall, McAndrew, and Wittman for their exceptional work in the field and joins them in their hope that one day, their line work won’t be so exceptional.

We also wish to thank every one of the attendees who responded to our exit survey (an impressive 50%) and revealed that prior to the event, half of them were not familiar or only somewhat familiar with the issues. For this reason, this event’s outcome was especially rewarding given our mission to raise public awareness. We are grateful for the feedback we received, including the following:

  • “I enjoyed the presentations. Very informative! Never studied on this topic. Tonight I have learned and it has become a great interest to me.”
  • “I was not aware the scale and impact of looting. I am shocked!”
  • “Great very informative and entertaining.”
  • “The panelists were so compelling.”
  • “The presentation and the information were great and useful for the future.”
  • “Very interesting presentation. I’m more aware of the art business now.”
  • “This event is significant and should be shared with the public!”

Also, special thanks to the following:

Elizabeth Gilgan, Deanna Baker, Megan Gannon, Marc Balcells, Ellen Belcher, Glenda Chao, Ana Escobedo, Luke Glover, Athena Hsieh, Damien Huffe, Laura Moore, Tracy Musacchio, Heather Otto, Margaret Rivera, Rebecca Rushfield, Brooke Todsen, Gabriele Ursitti, Adam Witham, Hyuna Yong

Very informative! Never studied this topic. Tonight I have learned and it has become a great interest to me.E.J., New York City


Friday October 29, 2010
Lecture: Gerald W. Lynch Theater, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
899 Tenth Ave, New York, New York

Download souvenir journal and “like” SAFE Beacon Awards on Facebook.

2010 SAFE Beacon Award poster

We thank the following organizations and individuals for their participation in the Souvenir Journal: