French Museum Worker in Dire Straits Found Guilty of Stealing 666 Fossils

Financially crippled by a divorce, he sold the artifacts on eBay.

An employee of the museum of natural history in Orleans, France has been convicted of stealing 666 fossils and stones. The man has been given a suspended sentence of three months in prison, and a symbolic fine of one Euro.

The 56-year-old museum worker, who was caught selling the artifacts through eBay, claimed that he was driven to commit his crimes after being financially crippled by his divorce in 2013.

“I couldn’t pay off my debts to the bank,” he told the court. “I panicked at the thought of finding myself living on the streets, and of never seeing my children again. I lost my head,” he pleaded.

The judge seemed sympathetic to the public servant’s plight, issuing a suspended sentence (one that is generally dismissed after good behavior during a probationary period); and instead of the €10,000 fine the museum was seeking, the judge fined the man only €1 (about $1.05).

When it comes to thefts from institutions, the price tag on the stolen items is usually more than around ten Euros each, which is perhaps why the judge in question took pity on the culprit in this case. He had sold around 100 fossils for a measly €10-€20 ($10.45-$20.95) each.

Investigators found 364 stones and fossils in the man’s home, and a further 100 were returned in good faith by eBay buyers, after finding out they had been stolen.

They were all part of the same collection, donated to the museum in 1983. The majority of which came from Mauritania in Northern Africa, and date back to the Neolithic era.

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