10 years' probation for ex-housecleaner in art theft

A Montgomery County judge sentenced former Main Line house cleaner Andrea Lawton to 10 years on probation in the theft of two rare works of art from the Bryn Mawr home where she worked.

The probation, for charges of burglary and conspiracy, will run concurrent with the six-year prison sentence that Lawton, 47, received in May for one count of interstate transportation of stolen property, when she took a bust of Benjamin Franklin out-of-state to find a buyer.

Pictured is the recovered framed, collection of composer Victor Herbert memorabilia. It includes a photograph of the composer/conductor/cello player, who died in 1924 in New York City, hand-written notes around the border, and one of Herbert's conductor's baton. It was returned in relatively good shape, with a nick in the frame and the glass slightly dislodged.

The county sentence - and the return Friday of the last missing item taken in the heist - marks the end of the courthouse phase that began in 2012, after Lawton was caught with the rare Franklin bust, valued at $3 million, that she had stolen from lawyer George D'Angelo's home. The bust was sculpted in 1778 by Jean-Antoine Houdon.

While the bust was recovered about a month after the theft, a shadow box holding collectibles of the composer Victor Herbert remained missing until Friday.

D'Angelo and his son inspected it in the courtroom and pronounced it in generally good shape. The only damage was a nick on the frame and dislodged glass.

D'Angelo declined to comment on the recovery, but First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele said "the victims were ecstatic" to see the shadow box.

The county probation was part of a deal that clicked in when the Herbert memorabilia was returned - no questions asked - to the courthouse Friday morning by defense attorney Michael John and deemed by its owners to be in good condition.

John would not comment on how, where or when the shadow box was recovered. Steele said that presumably Lawton was involved in its return.

Judge Carolyn Tornetta Carluccio issued the sentence Friday as D'Angelo sat in the courtroom gallery, behind the shadow box and near Lawton, who did not look toward him.


Contact Carolyn Davis at 610-313-8109, acdavis@phillynews.com, or @carolyntweets on Twitter.