NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — Police arrested a former New Bedford Whaling Museum employee for reportedly pawning dozens of artifacts he stole while on the job, according to the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office.
Robert Burchell, 42, was taken into custody last week and charged with larceny.
Burchell is accused of covertly stealing “pocket-sized” artifacts while working as a facilities associate at the museum. Burchell would then sell those artifacts to local antique and pawn shops for cash, according to the DA’s office.
The investigation began soon after a West Bridgewater shop owner who bought some of the artifacts off of Burchell came forward.
The shop owner told detectives the artifacts he had purchased from Burchell were rare, and that he believed the items were stolen.
The DA’s office estimates that Burchell stole nearly $75,000 worth of artifacts from the museum. The vast majority of those artifacts have since been returned.
12 News reached out to the museum regarding the thefts, to which a spokesperson confirmed Burchell was immediately fired following his arrest.
“The museum has always employed security measures that are above the industry standard, including tech-enabled and human monitoring of our collection,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We have swiftly responded to this incident with increased security measures to further protect our collection.”
Burchell was granted $5,000 cash bail and ordered to stay away from the museum and its employees.
His next court date is scheduled for Jan. 31.