Wiggin and Dana Partner David L. Hall, Former Federal Prosecutor, Helps Recover Stolen Columbus Letter

May 25, 2016
In 1493, while returning from his voyage to the new world, Christopher Columbus wrote a letter to his royal patrons, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, to tell them of his discoveries. Columbus' letter was published in limited editions to announce the news to European leaders. Many of these printed copies have been lost to time. Those remaining have become very valuable indeed.

One such printed copy of the Columbus letter was held in the Biblioteca Riccardiana in Florence, Italy. In 2012, then federal prosecutor and current Wiggin and Dana partner David L. Hall and Homeland Security Special Agent Mark Olexa, received a tip that the copy in Florence was a forgery. Hall and Olexa traveled to Florence with a forensic expert to examine the questioned copy and determined that it was indeed a forgery. A very good forgery, but a forgery nonetheless. Hall and Olexa conducted further investigation and determined that the stolen letter was sold at auction in New York in 1992. The purchaser subsequently donated the Columbus letter to the U.S. Library of Congress. Hall, Olexa, and the forensic expert examined the letter in the Library of Congress and determined it was the letter stolen from the Biblioteca Riccardiana.

This week, the stolen Columbus letter was returned by the U.S. Ambassador to Italy to the Italian government.

To read more about this story from the U.S. Embassy (Rome) and The New York Times, please click here and here.