Judge clears antiques dealer in theft case - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Judge clears antiques dealer in theft case

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

The Seidenberg sisters got their day in court more than a year after their dead mother's Hinesburg home was burglarized.

"It was really sad and my stomach kind of sank because I realized we had been violated," Catherine Seidenberg said.

The women say a thief stole roughly eight family heirlooms, including furniture, a portrait and assorted antiques-- all of which they inherited from their mom.

"These were the things we had left, the connection to her history. So they were very sentimental," said Margaret Seidenberg-Ellis.

Margaret called area antiques dealers and emailed pictures of the stolen items.

Vermont State Trooper Benjamin Katz says the sisters were one of about six families hit by the same thief last year. But unlike the typical gold and jewelry heists he was used to investigating, these break-ins were different.

"This was strange because we'd walk into a house and pretty much all of the furniture would be missing," Katz said.

Police eventually linked the thefts to Charles Pickett, 36. The career criminal had been arrested several times before for burglaries in Vermont and New York. Police found a stash of stolen antiques at his Ferrisburgh home, including some of the sisters' items. But a child's rocking chair was still missing. Pickett told police he sold it to Thomas Cross at Champlain Valley Antiques. Prosecutors charged him with buying stolen goods, but Cross denied knowing the rocking chair was stolen.

"It's not should have known. It's not ought to have known. It's what he knew. There's more than reasonable doubt in this matter, ladies and gentlemen," said Vanessa Kittell Thomas, Cross' lawyer.

Cross' co-worker Brad Schwartz says keeping an eye out for everyone's stolen items is a challenge.

"You do the best you can. But in the course of just a few days, you're seeing so many other thousands of items," Schwartz said.

He says since old furniture can't be converted to cash as quickly as gold, thieves rarely target them. Transactions can be tricky.

"You try and judge the kind of answers you get and frankly what the person looks like. How honest and sincere they appear to be and you use your gut instinct," Schwartz said.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Judge Kevin Griffin issued a motion for judgment of acquittal. This means that the state failed to offer sufficient evidence that Thomas Cross knew the items from Pickett were stolen. He was acquitted on all charges.

As for Pickett, he's back in prison. The alleged thefts were a violation of his parole. Those cases are currently pending.

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