by Max Brantley
The U.S. attorney's office late this evening announced guilty pleas from two men who stole archival photos worth millions and used them to sells tens of thousands of dollars worth of prints. They were defrauding the Rogers Photo Archives, a North Little Rock business that has gained national prominence for digitizing newspaper and other photo archives for resale. David Koon wrote for the Times about the business.
Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and Brian T. Marr, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service Little Rock Field Office, announced the waiver of Indictment and pleas of guilty by Christopher Jackson, age 38, of Alexander, Arkansas, and Steve Bernard Roby, age 41, of North Little Rock, Arkansas, to a federal Information charging conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Roby pled guilty today and Jackson pled guilty yesterday, February 14, 2013.
At the plea hearings held before United States District Judge Susan Webber Wright, the defendants admitted that while employed at Rogers Photo Archives, they diverted funds submitted by customers purchasing photographs from Rogers Photo Archives to their personal PayPal accounts. After Jackson’s employment was terminated, Jackson provided lists of photographs to Roby, and Roby was paid by Jackson to steal the photographs and provide them to Jackson. During execution of a search warrant at Jackson’s residence on May 17, 2012, North Little Rock Police Department recovered over 100,000 stolen photographs with an estimated value of over $2 million. From March 2010 through May 2012, Jackson listed approximately 37,383 stolen photographs for sale on eBay using his personal account, and sold 8,347 stolen photographs on eBay. Jackson received payment for the stolen photographs via PayPaltransactions totaling $138,605.04.
"I am happy to report the thousands of photos recovered will be returned to their rightful owner," stated Thyer. “It is a good day when we can bring justice to a business owner who has worked hard to build a reputable business. With the return of these photos, the archive of photos will be greatly restored and the thieves who thought they could profit from them are facing serious time in prison for their greed.”
Special Agent in Charge Brian T. Marr stated, “The Secret Service is committed to aggressively investigating those associated with this type of financially motivated crime. Embezzlement as a crime that brings economic hardships on the business, and their owners in our communities. Unfortunately, most business owners attempt to protect themselves, their business, and employees from perceived threats from the outside and do not pay attention to the employee threat from the inside. So by working cooperatively with our law enforcement and judicial partners, this agency was able to make sure that those responsible for this breach of trust were held accountable for their criminal actions.”
The statutory penalty for conspiracy to commit wire fraud is not more than twenty (20 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, three (3) years of supervised release, and a $100 special assessment. Both defendants remain free on their own recognizance pending sentencing, which will be set at a later date by the Court.
This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service Little Rock Field Office and the North Little Rock Police Department. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Mazzanti.