Investigators are searching for a dealer of Latter-day Saint antiquities charged with stealing rare photos from two universities and failing to pay another dealer for nearly $700,000 worth of antiques.
Kevin Mark Ronald Schuwer, 29, of Orem, was charged on Monday in 1st District Court in Logan with burglary and theft, both third-degree felonies.
Court documents show Schuwer reportedly stole rare photographs from the Merrill-Cazier Library at Utah State University and the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University.
A 1st District Court judge ordered an arrest warrant for Schuwer on Tuesday.
On Oct. 19, police say Schuwer visited the USU Special Collections and Archives at the campus library and filled out eight request forms to view different items in the collection.
One of the items was a portrait of Orson F. Whitney, an apostle with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The picture is dated March 21, 1873, and has a statement on the front that reads “Yours Truly O.F. Whitney.”
Police reported the picture is worth $2,000 to $3,000.
Video surveillance footage shows Schuwer took photos of the portrait and acted as if he put the picture back in a protective envelope.
“He instead passes the photo under the envelope and slides it into his gray laptop case which is on the table next to him. All of these actions were captured by surveillance video,” the charging document states.
That evening, Schuwer allegedly sold the photo to a local buyer. After researching the history of the photo, the buyer discovered the photo should not have been in Schuwer’s possession. The buyer returned the portrait to Schuwer for a refund and contacted university officials.
Library staff found the empty protective envelope and contacted the USU Police Department.
Meanwhile, Schuwer had already sold the portrait and four other historical LDS photos for $1,500 to another buyer in California. Investigators contacted the buyer who shipped the portrait back to USU Police.
The California buyer also reported Schuwer had also sold him a rare picture of Porter Rockwell, an important LDS historical figure, for $11,500, according to an unsealed search warrant from the BYU University Police Department.
“The Porter Rockwell picture belongs to the Daughters of the Pioneers Museum in Salt Lake City, which was stolen out of a display frame and replaced with a fake,” the search warrant states.
Schuwer had also reportedly stolen another picture of Porter Rockwell from the library at BYU campus, according to the search warrant.
On Oct. 11, police reported Schuwer entered the library and requested to see photos from the Special Collections.
“While looking at the photos, Schuwer removed an original photo of Porter Rockwell from its protective sleeve and replaced it with a fake copy of the same picture,” the search warrant states.
Schuwer then sold the photo to a collector in Utah County for $2,000.
The collector told investigators he had also bought three rare LDS Church books from Schuwer.
“These books contained markings showing they were BYU property,” investigators reported, and all the items were returned to the university.
On Oct. 31, BYU police officers arrested Schuwer at his home in Orem. Investigators seized an iPad and iPhone that contained more than 38,000 images. The devices also had messages between Schuwer and various buyers.
“Kevin Schuwer used his iPad and iPhone extensively and exclusively to sell vintage items on the internet to collectors around the country,” the search warrant states. “Kevin Schuwer was also manufacturing digital reproductions of photographs that he used to replace when stealing the originals. It is believed Kevin Schuwer was using these devices to reproduce copies of vintage photos.”
During his arrest, Schuwer reportedly told investigators he also took six rare books from the BYU library and planned to sell them.
In a civil lawsuit filed in 4th District Court in Provo, a judge ordered Schuwer on Nov. 1 to pay $694,701 for selling fake LDS artifacts to a separate California buyer.
Schuwer reportedly sold the buyer a counterfeit 1835 LDS Church hymnal and a counterfeit 1849 LDS gold coin in 2017, the court documents state. The hymnal sold for $65,000 and the coin sold for $60,000.
He also sold the buyer a 1614 King James Bible rumored to be owned by King James for $105,000; an 1837 Book of Mormon claimed to be owned by James Talmage, a late member of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; and 1835 scriptures alleged to be owned by Emma Smith, the first wife of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith, for $129,000.
But court documents state Schuwer did not pay the original sellers or owners of the books.
“(Schuwer) represented that he had paid the seller/owner, and that title to the book had transferred to (the buyer), all of which were false,” according to the court documents.
Schuwer also sold a book owned by the buyer, an 1830 copy of the Book of Mormon for $105,000. But Schuwer did not pay the buyer any of the money from the sale.
“The defendant is confessing to the conduct and to the judgment in an effort to pay the plaintiff the amount wrongfully obtained by him from the plaintiff, and to avoid the costs of litigation and likely punitive damage claims,” the order states.