Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Woman sentenced to 6 years in prison in theft of Ben Franklin bust

A Benjamin Franklin bust, which was valued in excess of $3 million, was stolen along with a small portrait from a home in Bryn Mawr.
A Benjamin Franklin bust, which was valued in excess of $3 million, was stolen along with a small portrait from a home in Bryn Mawr.

A Philadelphia woman was sentenced to six years in prison today for stealing a rare bust of Benjamin Franklin from a Bryn Mawr home.

Prosecutors said U.S. District Judge C. Darnell Jones II also ordered 47-year-old Andrea Lawton to serve three years of supervised release.

Lawton pleaded guilty in federal court in Philadelphia in December to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property. She admitted to swiping the $3 million bust -- which was sculpted during Franklin's lifetime by Jean-Antoine Houdon -- on Aug. 24, 2012, from a home where she had worked as a house cleaner.

She then hid for weeks in Alabama, trying to find a buyer for the bust, and was arrested after a bus trip to Elkton, Md.

The bust was damaged during that time. Prosecutors said restitution payments will be ordered after the bust is fully repaired.

Lawton told took the bust because she was upset with the cleaning service that that had just fired her, and wanted to make money, authorities have said. When Lawton was assigned to clean the home the bust was stolen from, she had been told that the sculpture was extremely valuable and she shouldn't touch it, court documents say.

Lawton also faced charges in Montgomery County in connection to the theft, and pleaded guilty to those offenses last month.

Court documents say Lawton had 21 prior arrests that led to 11 convictions, including convictions in four other home burglaries.

Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; Follow @phillynews on Twitter. staff
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