Mass. men accused of stealing astronaut Armstrong’s customs form, trying to sell it online

By Russell Contreras, AP
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Astronaut Armstrong’s customs doc stolen in Boston

BOSTON — Two Massachusetts men stole and tried to sell a customs form with the birth date, address and signature of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

According to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, Thomas Chapman, 50, of Malden, and Paul Brickman, 50, of Chelsea, tried to sell online a customs declarations form filled out by Armstrong, who just had returned from a trip overseas designed to boost “morale and boost support” for troops serving abroad.

The complaint said Chapman was working at Boston’s Logan International Airport in Customs and Border Protection on March 13 when Armstrong passed through a checkpoint and even helped Armstrong with his luggage to a connecting bus to New York.

But authorities said Chapman did not properly file a customs declarations form with the proper Department of Homeland Security officials. Instead, he and Brickman allegedly tried to sell the form using an auction company that operates a public website dedicated to the sale of historical documents and memorabilia.

Bidding for Armstrong’s form began in May with a starting bid of $200 and reached $1,026 before the auction company halted the bidding in response to concerns raised by a bidder, the complaint said.

Federal investigators recovered the Armstrong document shortly after the auction company removed it from its inventory.

Both men have been charged with stealing an official government record. It was not immediately clear if either had a lawyer.

If convicted, both men face up to 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

A man who answered the phone under a listing for Chapman declined to comment and Brickman did not immediately return messages.

Armstrong, who lives in Indian Hill, Ohio, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Tuesday marked the 41th anniversary of Armstrong and fellow Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin becoming the first men to walk on the moon after landing their lunar module.

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