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Two Pennsylvania men were indicted for fraud by a federal grand jury Thursday charging that they staged phony appraisals on the popular PBS television series “Antiques Roadshow” to enhance their reputation as experts in appraising military artifacts and then swindled some of the owners who later hired them. Russell Pritchard III, 37, of Bryn Mawr and George Juno, 40, of Allentown face charges of wire fraud and mail fraud. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Goldman said the pair’s phony television segments attracted potential customers including one of the descendants of prominent Civil War soldier Samuel J. Wilson, a major in the Union army who fought with Gen. William Sherman. The Wilson family saw Pritchard and Juno on “Antiques Roadshow” and hired them to appraise a presentation sword that was given to the major by the men who had served under his command. The indictment says Pritchard and his company, American Ordnance Preservation Association, purchased the sword for $7,950 and assured the family that it would be on permanent display at the soon-to-open Harrisburg National Civil War Museum. In fact, the indictment says, Pritchard gave the sword to Juno, who first used it as collateral to get a loan for his home and later sold it for $20,000. Pritchard and Juno later gave fake bills to the Wilson family to hide the fact that they had sold it to a private collector for more than twice what they had paid. In a second alleged scheme, Pritchard alone is charged with swindling a descendant of Confederate Gen. George E. Pickett. General Pickett is best remembered for the calamitous “Pickett’s Charge” at the Battle of Gettysburg, the infamously bloody military folly that many say was the turning point in the Civil War. A civil lawsuit filed by George E. Pickett V resulted in a jury’s verdict against Pritchard. Now Pritchard’s testimony in that case has come back to haunt him. He is charged with committing perjury in addition to the fraud charge. According to the indictment, Pritchard traveled to Wilmington, N.C., and claimed to be “acting on behalf of” the National Civil War Museum. The indictment says Pritchard falsely appraised the general’s artifacts as worth just $88,000 and then sold all of the items to the museum for 10 times that amount — $880,000. Pritchard purchased the general’s kepi (a cap); a uniform sleeve with a bullet hole from the Battle of Gaines Mill; sleeve wraps; a sash; wedding shoes; three of the general’s military appointment papers from the Confederate government; a portrait; a map of Gettysburg; a notebook the general had kept during his days as a student at West Point; three letters; and a lock of hair. Pickett’s great-great grandson sued Pritchard and AOPA and later amended the case to add the City of Harrisburg as a defendant. At trial, Harrisburg was cleared of any liability for Pritchard’s fraud when the jury determined that Pritchard was not acting as the city’s agent. Mayor Stephen Reed, who testified by videotape at trial, said he was surprised to discover that Pickett did not receive most of the money the city had paid to AOPA. Reed said he met with Pritchard to express his “astonishment that there was a 1,000 percent increase … between what was paid to Mr. Pickett and what we paid for the same artifacts.” But on the claims against Pritchard and AOPA, the jury effectively rewrote history to make Pickett whole, awarding him $500,000 on his common law fraud claim and $100,000 on his claim under the North Carolina Unfair Competition Law, a law that provides for automatic trebling of damages. Thursday’s indictment also details how Pritchard and Juno arranged the alleged phony segments on “Antiques Roadshow.” For one of the fake segments, the indictment says, Pritchard asked a friend to fly from Alaska to Seattle to discuss staging a fake appraisal and later traveled with the friend to Denver to appear on the show and provided him with an antique sword to bring in for appraisal. The three men also allegedly created a fake story for the friend to tell about his knowledge of the sword’s origins. On television, the two pretended to be strangers, and Pritchard offered a seemingly extemporaneous appraisal of a sword that he, in fact, owned himself and had already researched, the indictment says. The perjury charges against Pritchard relate to his answers to the question of Pickett’s attorney, Gavin Lentz, who suggested during cross-examination that Pritchard had staged fake appraisals on “Antiques Roadshow.” Lentz, referring to the September 1996 show, asked if the “whole thing was set up?” Pritchard said, “I don’t recall,” but later denied that he had ever met the man who brought in the sword or that he had discussions with Juno about it before the television show was taped.

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