March 27, 2013 2:42 pm
Updated: March 27, 2013 8:39 pm

Halifax art dealer describes how Tillman allegedly stole artifacts

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New details have been uncovered about a Halifax man suspected of stealing a million dollars worth of artifacts.

Until now, little has been known about John Tillman’s alleged activities as a self-proclaimed art dealer.

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RCMP allege Tillman spent decades stealing a trove of artifacts from museums and galleries throughout Atlantic Canada.

Halifax art gallery owner Ian Muncaster says Tillman bought a ship’s portrait 14 years ago from him.

Muncaster says Tillman paid for half of the portrait on his credit card, with the remaining $3,500 to be charged to his account later.

But when Muncaster charged the card it was declined.

“He told me that he was… a Canadian trader operating out of Moscow, buying and selling, that sort of thing,” Muncaster said.

Muncaster says that forgotten documents from his art gallery reveal ties to Russia, including faxes and letters from a Russian address.

“I mentioned that to the police and they said… there were… photographs of himself in Moscow,” Muncaster said, adding that Mounties haven’t come to see this new evidence.

Tillman, 51, was arrested on Jan. 18 after police searched his Fall River home and discovered more than 1,000 antiques, historical documents, paintings and other artifacts believed to have been stolen from museums, libraries and universities.

Among the rare artifacts believed stolen is an early edition of Charles Darwin’s classic ‘On the Origin of Species,’ as well as letters from George Washington and British General James Wolfe. Collectors say those three items may be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Tillman has been charged with several counts of possession of stolen property under $5,000, four counts of possession of stolen property over $5,000, two counts each of trafficking in stolen property and possession of forged documents.

Police say another person has been charged in connection with the thefts, but that person’s identity has not been released. The RCMP has posted many of the artifacts online hoping the public can help identify some of the items, a process they say could take more than a year.

With files from Ross Lord

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