2 plead guilty to guitar thefts

Premier instruments for rock bands were resold through the Internet

June 28, 2006|By NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON | NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON,SUN REPORTER

Two Anne Arundel County men pleaded guilty yesterday to felony theft arising from a scheme to steal and sell high-end guitars made for musicians with the rock bands Third Eye Blind, The Dead and Incubus, among others.

Jeffrey Harry Lanahan, 44, of Annapolis and Michael Jay Kelly, 42, of Arnold were accused of stealing about a dozen guitars manufactured by Paul Reed Smith Guitars in Stevensville, where Lanahan was an employee.

The guitars were valued at about $57,900, according to court records.

Lanahan and Kelly will be sentenced by Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Ronald A. Silkworth on Sept. 1.

Each could face a maximum penalty of 15 years and a possible fine of $25,000. The state's attorney's office will recommend a three-month sentence for Lanahan and a suspended sentence for Kelly, said Kristin Riggin, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office. The men have agreed to a joint restitution payment totaling $21,050 for the guitars that were not recovered, she said.

"This is one of the many theft cases involving the Internet and these cases can be very difficult," State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said in a statement. "We are pleased we were able to secure a conviction against the defendants and an order of restitution for Mr. Smith."

The scheme was uncovered when a PRS employee saw unauthorized listings of the custom-made guitars on eBay, according to court papers.

A search of Lanahan's and Kelly's homes turned up among other guitars, one made for a member of Faith Hill's band valued at $8,500, and another made for a Nickelback band member worth $5,500, police said.

Lanahan, who delivered, produced and promoted PRS guitars for nine years, had filled out the paperwork for the Nickelback guitar in 2004, court paper show. He was one of a few PRS employees who had access to guitars made for artists.

Kelly told prosecutors that during the past few years, he bought 20 guitars from Lanahan and put some of them up for sale on eBay, sometimes through a third party.

Jeffrey S. Marcalus, Kelly's attorney, said his client didn't know that the guitars were stolen, and merely "got caught up in the theft scheme."

"He didn't know that Mr. Lanahan didn't have permission to take the guitars," Marcalus said. "He thought that Mr. Lanahan either purchased them or had permission to have them."

Mark W. Howes, Lanahan's attorney, said his client decided to plead guilty to avoid a trial. He said his client admitted "that he maybe did some things that to other people might look inappropriate."

Reached at his office, Paul Reed Smith said that he "was glad that there wasn't a big argument," but also expressed some disappointment.

"The whole thing was a little close to the bone. Jeff worked here for the better part of a decade, so it's a tough situation," he said. "But I think the right thing happened."

nia.henderson@baltsun.com

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