Rock Hall Curator Among Three Arrested In Plot To Sell Don Henley’s Stolen, Handwritten Notes And Lyrics To ‘Hotel California’
About 100 pages of stolen lyrics and notes handwritten by Don Henley for the Eagles’ classic Hotel California ended up in the hands of three men, one of whom was a curator for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, who attempted to forge authentication and then sell them in a sophisticated conspiracy, according to an indictment handed down July 12 in New York.
Curator Criag Inciardi, Glenn Horowitz and Edward Kosinksi were each charged with one count of conspiracy; Inciardi and Konsinki were also charged with criminal possession of stolen property, while Horowitz incurred additional charges of attempted criminal possession of stolen property and two counts of hindering prosecution.
The lyrics and notes to songs including “Hotel California,” “Life in the Fast Lane,” and “New Kid In Town” were among the stolen items. “Despite knowing that the materials were stolen, the defendants attempted to sell the manuscripts, manufactured false provenance, and lied to auction houses, potential buyers, and law enforcement about the origin of the material,” according to a statement from Bragg, who added the manuscripts were valued at more than $1 million.
“New York is a world-class hub for art and culture, and those who deal cultural artifacts must scrupulously follow the law. There is no room for those who would seek to ignore the basic expectations of fair dealing and undermine the public’s confidence and trust in our cultural trade for their own ends,” Bragg said. “These defendants attempted to keep and sell these unique and valuable manuscripts, despite knowing they had no right to do so. They made up stories about the origin of the documents and their right to possess them so they could turn a profit.”
Eagles and Henley manager Irving Azoff (who is also a co-founder of Pollstar parent company Oak View Group) said on behalf of Henley: “We are thankful to New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his staff for pursuing this case and have faith that justice will be served. This action exposes the truth about music memorabilia sales of highly personal, stolen items hidden behind a facade of legitimacy. No one has the right to sell illegally obtained property or profit from the outright theft of irreplaceable pieces of musical history. These handwritten lyrics are an integral part of the legacy Don Henley has created over the course of his 50-plus-year career. We look forward to the return of Don’s property, for him and his family to enjoy and preserve for posterity.”
According to court documents, the manuscripts were allegedly stolen in the late 1970s by an author who had been hired to write an Eagles biography and eventually sold the manuscripts in 2005 to Horowitz, a rare books dealer, who in turn sold them to Inciardi and Kosinksi.
When Henley learned the pair were trying to sell portions of the manuscripts, he filed police reports, told the defendants that the materials were stolen, and demanded the return of his property. Rather than making any effort to ensure they actually had rightful ownership, the defendants responded by engaging in a years-long campaign to prevent Henley from recovering the manuscripts.
Horowitz and Inciardi allegedly worked to fabricate the manuscripts’ provenance, or authentication, and between 2012-17, they attempted to use that falsified authentication to coerce Henley into buying back his stolen property.
At the same time, the pair also sought to sell the manuscripts through Christie’s and Sotheby’s auction houses. When trying to sell the manuscripts through Christie’s, Inciardi lied and withheld information from the auction house regarding Henley’s claims. Inciardi and Kosinski both allegedly asked Sotheby’s to conceal Henley’s claims from potential buyers prior to offering the manuscripts for sale at public auction in 2016.
Beginning in December 2016, the district attorney’s office executed a series of search warrants and retrieved Don Henley’s stolen manuscripts from Sotheby’s and from Kosinkski’s New Jersey residence, including 84 pages to songs from the album Hotel California.
Soon after, Horowitz allegedly attempted to exploit the recent death of founding Eagles member Glenn Frey to prevent criminal prosecution. According to Bragg’s statement, Horowitz produced a new false statement of provenance, this time claiming that the materials originated from the now-deceased Frey. In one email message, Horowitz said, “[Frey] alas, is dead and identifying him as the source would make this go away once and for all.”
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame acknowledged late July 12 that Inciardi remains employed as a curator but has been suspended while an investigation is conducted, and gave Pollstar this statement:
“We have learned that a New York County grand jury has indicted a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame employee with curator responsibilities, Craig Inciardi. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is not named in the indictment nor does the alleged conduct involve the Rock Hall’s business, collection, or archives.
“When we became aware of this matter, we suspended the employee and retained experienced outside counsel to conduct an internal investigation. We take very seriously the responsibility to protect the integrity of our collection and the artists it represents and maintain consistent and stringent controls. We do not tolerate conduct that compromises the integrity of our collection or our institution. The employee remains on leave pending resolution of our investigation.
As this is an ongoing matter not involving the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, we will have no further comment.”