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New Mexico man pleads guilty to stealing items from Montana Historical Society

by BLAIR MILLER Daily Montanan
| July 10, 2024 12:00 AM

A New Mexico author who has written several books on Montana pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing several items, including letters from C.M. Russell’s wife, from the Montana Historical Society during the course of a year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.

Brian D’Ambrosio, 49, of Santa Fe, N.M., pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of theft of major artwork. In exchange for his plea, the government agreed to dismiss nine other counts for which he was indicted last November.

The count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but prosecutors agreed to recommend his D’Ambrosio’s offense level be decreased because he pleaded guilty, which could lead to a more lenient sentence depending on what the judge decides.

D’Ambrosio’s indictment was unsealed in January. According to the records, D’Ambrosio would go to the Montana Historical Society in Helena from April 2022 through September 2023 claiming he was doing research and would steal items, including some more than 100 years old, from the archives.

He would then sell or try to sell them on eBay without saying they were stolen. Those included a Crow program for the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1926; a 1905 Centennial Brewing letter from Butte; an 1889 Montana Society of the Framers of the Constitution Convention Flag and Program; a Ravalli County sheriff card from the early 1900s; a telegram and letters written by Nancy Russell, the wife of C.M. Russell; and stock certificates and letters from the late 1800s and early 1900s involving the Silver Cliff Mining Company, U.S. Silver Service Commission; and Mexican Central Railway Company.

D’Amrbosio was caught when he tried to sell items to an undercover FBI agent posing as a buyer, according to the indictment.

D’Ambrosio has written numerous books with various ties to Montana, and online biographies say he lived here for more than 20 years. An Independent Record article from October said D’Ambrosio also co-owns an herbal store in Santa Fe and is a private investigator in three states.

The two sides had reached a tentative agreement in April in the case, but D’Ambrosio agreed to the plea deal during a court hearing Tuesday.

He was again released – as he has been since his indictment – pending his sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for Nov. 13.