A Westminster man pleaded guilty in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court yesterday to stealing war medals from three local World War II veterans and replacing them with fakes.
Under a plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a sentence of 48 months in jail and 4 1/2 years of probation for Stephen Van Rensselaer Pyne, 35.
Sentencing was scheduled for Feb. 2.
Assistant State's Attorney Warren Davis said Pyne confessed to stealing the medals after investigators found hundreds of stolen medals, certificates and citations when they searched his home July 12.
Mr. Davis said during the hearing yesterday that Pyne admitted that he approached the three war heroes and offered to clean and frame their Navy Cross medals. But he returned fake medals in shadowboxes and either kept the originals or sold them at antique auctions.
"The crime was egregious," Mr. Davis said. "If you talk to some of the veterans who were the victims, they're still hurt by this."
Pyne is awaiting sentencing Jan. 22 in Carroll County, where he pTC pleaded guilty last month to using the same scheme to steal medals from five other veterans. He has entered a plea agreement there that calls for him to receive a six-year term.
Investigators have turned their information over to the FBI, which is conducting a separate investigation that could result in additional charges, Mr. Davis said.
One of Pyne's victims, Maurice H. Rindskopf, a retired admiral who lives in Severna Park, attended the hearing and said later that he thought the penalties were appropriate.
"I don't want to see him in there for life," said Mr. Rindskopf, who alerted prosecutors to Pyne's operation when he realized the medals and a battle flag from his World War II submarine returned to him were fakes.
Mr. Rindskopf, who said he would get all of his medals back after the case ended, said he called the state's attorney's office last June for several reasons.
"I wanted to get my medals back, and I wanted to make sure that the perpetrator never did this to anyone again," Mr. Rindskopf said.
"And I wanted to alert my fellow veterans that something like this might happen to them."