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Stephen Pyne, the man who stole heros medals-never forget


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This issue came up last week, and I was encouraged to start a new thread. For those who have been collecting medals for a while, the name Stephen Pyne is greeted with sneers, disgust and anger. He besmirched our hobby by committing an insidious crime and left many reputable dealers with stolen medals and tens of thousands of dollars in the hole when they willingly and honorably returned the medals to their rightful owners. WORST OF ALL HE INFLICTED SIGNIFICANT PAIN on some of the most honorable gentlemen, their families, and widows. I realized that the newer generation of collectors are not aware of his deeds, and he was, at least until recently selling on ebay and making his way around the shows. He presented himself as the grandson of Adm Pyne and went into the homes of VERY prominent valor medal recipients and General officers. He listened to their stories and offered as an acknowledgement of their honor to clean and frame their medals. He then replaced them in a frame with type pieces, selling the originals to unknowing collectors and dealers. He got away with it until one Admiral realized that his solid gold honor dolphins had been replaced by a cheap modern example when he opened the frame to show a researcher the pin. Then it all fell apart. Here are just a few of the articles about his activities.

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By BRADLEY PENISTON Staff Writer | Posted

Aug 31, 1995

Rarely is the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded. Even more rarely is the nation's highest civilian decoration stolen, sold, mailed back to law enforcement officials and then returned to its rightful owner.

County State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee completed the circle this morning at the Arundel Center in Annapolis, returning a Medal of Freedom and several other decorations to retired Army Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster of Alexandria, Va.

Eighteen of the general's medals allegedly were stolen by Stephen V. Pyne of Westminster, whom prosecutors say bilked 31 retired military veterans including five county residents out of thousands of medals over the past few years.

"It's a very sad thing when a young man, very intelligent, would do something like this, really lie to people," Gen. Goodpaster said this morning.

Like other victims of the alleged scam, Gen. Goodpaster said Mr. Pyne approached him last October, saying he was writing a book on Medal of Freedom winners. Mr. Pyne persuaded the general to let him borrow a glass case filled with his medals to photograph them.

In the succeeding months, Mr. Pyne returned duplicates of a handful of medals. Other awards, including the Medal of Freedom, were never returned, the general said.

Gen. Goodpaster's medals were recently mailed to the State's Attorney's Office by a collector in New York state. Mr. Pyne allegedly sold the medals to the collector in February for more than $20,000, said Kristin A. Riggin, spokesman for the State's Attorney's Office.

The medals include the Medal of Freedom, for which the collector paid about $7,000, Ms. Riggin said.

"It is heart-rending to know that someone would steal them, and sell them for profit," Mr. Weathersbee said.

The medals commanded a high price because of Gen. Goodpaster's distinguished career, Ms. Riggin said.

Gen. Goodpaster served as commander of an engineering battalion during World War II, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, and superintendent of the Military Academy at West Point. He also held numerous other military and civilian offices.

After the collector heard news reports of the alleged scam, he realized that he had bought stolen medals and mailed them back, said David Cordle, an investigator with the State's Attorney's Office.

Mr. Pyne has been charged with three counts of felony theft. No trial date has been set.

Dozens of medals worth thousands of dollars have been mailed to the State's Attorney's Office, Mr. Cordle said. Investigators also seized hundreds of medals from Mr. Pyne's Westminster home on July 12.

Although Gen. Goodpaster didn't express an opinion about whether Mr. Pyne should go to jail if convicted, he said he was upset by the incident.

"What I think was really bad is the mistreatment of the medals. The medals have great meaning to those who served. It's a kind of disrespect," the general said.

Staff Writer Brian Wheeler contrib uted to this story.



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Thief of war hero medals given 4 1/2 -year term Sentence rTC concurrent with Carroll time
March 30, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A Carroll County man who admitted he stole medals -- including the nation's highest honor -- from three Anne Arundel County war heroes was sentenced in Anne Arundel Circuit Court yesterday to 4 1/2 years in jail.

Stephen V. Pyne, 35, a former Carroll County budget analyst, was sentenced by Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. after pleading guilty to three counts of theft Dec. 11.

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The sentence will run concurrently with a six-year term Pyne is serving in the Carroll County Detention Center after pleading guilty to five counts of theft there Nov. 20.

Assistant State's Attorney Warren W. Davis III said Pyne told his victims he was a graduate student writing a thesis about their honors. After gaining their confidence, he would offer to have the medals framed in a glass-enclosed box, Mr. Davis said.

"He had everything so well rehearsed and so thought out that he just lied smoothly through the whole story," said retired Adm. Maurice H. Rindskopf of Severna Park, who lent Pyne his World War II Navy Cross and five other medals. Admiral Rindskopf got the cross and four other medals back.

He said yesterday he was glad he reported Pyne to authorities after learning he was a fraud last April.

"It's difficult to know if one year, five years or 20 years is an appropriate sentence. To me, the important thing is that he is no longer able to do this again," Admiral Rindskopf said.

Investigators found hundreds of stolen medals, certificates and citations at Pyne's home in the 100 block of Federal Ann Court. Many medals were returned to their owners, including the the Medal of Honor -- the nation's highest -- belonging to retired Rear Adm. Eugene B. Fluckey of Annapolis.

But Pyne, a $31,629-a-year budget analyst, also sold some medals, using part of the proceeds to pay for improvements to his Westminster townhouse, authorities said.

Many of the missing medals matched offerings in a catalog for an auction last summer in Houston, prosecutors said. The catalog priced the medals at $2,000 to $3,000.

Mr. Davis said yesterday that he thought the sentence was appropriate given that the crime was "well planned out."

The victims "are genuine American heroes," Mr. Davis said. "It's like Lincoln said, 'Time shall not diminish the glory of their deeds,' and these are the people who breathe life into those words."

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Terrible thing to do and a terrible person to have done it. Reminds me of the kid a couple years ago that stole and sold a bunch of TR documents from a museum in Texas.



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I'm glad he is doing time. I can think of other things to say about this scumbag but I'll just bite my typing finger! Danny

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Gents, we may all agree what a despicable character he is, but my greatest hope is that we spread some of the anger and energy exhibited in the previous posts to spreading the word to medals collectors who have entered the hobby since he got out of prison and in an astounding exhbition of arrogance -- rejoined the honorable group of collectors and historians in the collecting and dealing community as though nothing happened

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Well, notice the date of the article. He was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in '95, so he is long since back on the streets. Does anyone know exactly here he is now and what he is up to? It would be worthwhile to publicize this.



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It's been mentioned that he's an EBay seller. What's his EBay name? Also some one said he's on this Forum. If so, what's his name? Bobgee

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From what I remember it was glover2. I know he has been selling under his real name in person recently (in the DC area) and for a while there he was operating under a pseudonym. He is still representing himself as a "high end" medal dealer and collector.

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He was doing the scamming but don't forget there were some so-called reputable dealers who knew what he was doing and made their profit off of him and his thefts. The VA police questioned a couple that I know of. Some of them are still around today.



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Gents, key thing is to get the word out that he has resurfaced an is as active as ever. Make sure every medal collector you know learns the story, and we pass it on to the newer generation and those folks who may not have been exposed to his treachery

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This was sent to me, gives an example of the type of great American that Pyne preyed on. Unfortunately, both Pyne and the hero are memorialized in his obit


Paul J. Wiedorfer, WWII Medal of Honor recipient, dies at 89

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By T. Rees Shapiro, Published: May 26, 2011E-mail the writer




Paul J. Wiedorfer, 89, who as an Army private on Christmas Day 1944 charged two German machine-gun nests and single-handedly saved his platoon mates caught in an ambush, an act for which he received the Medal of Honor, died May 25 at the Baltimore VA Medical Center. His family said he had congestive heart failure.

Mr. Wiedorfer, who was born and grew up in Baltimore, was reportedly Marylands last surviving recipient of the Medal of Honor, the militarys highest award for valor.



He was 23 when his unit, part of Gen. George S. Pattons Third Army, was sent to rescue American troops trapped in Bastogne, Belgium, during the first days of the Battle of the Bulge.

On Christmas 1944, he and his platoon were advancing across a clearing in the snow-draped forest near Chaumont, Belgium. It was about noon on the cloudless, cold day when two camouflaged machine guns erupted with fire.

The American soldiers dropped to the frozen ground behind a small ridge, pinned down by the surprise German attack. Then Mr. Wiedorfer began his solo assault.

I was probably a little nuts when I did it, he told the Baltimore Sun in 1995. But someone was going to die if something didnt get done.

He charged into the open field, sliding across the icy clearing, which had been blanketed the night before with three inches of wet snow.

As he ran, he slipped and fell once, but got up and kept going.

Luckily, their firing wasnt too good that day, Mr. Wiedorfer told the Sun in 1994. They didnt get me.

When he was within 10 yards of one machine-gun emplacement, he tossed a grenade into it. After it exploded, he shot and killed the remaining Germans inside. He then spun around and attacked the second nest with his rifle, wounding one of the German soldiers. Six other Germans surrendered to Mr. Wiedorfer, according to his official Medal of Honor citation, although some news accounts put the number higher.

Twenty other Germans dug in around the two machine-gun positions, Sun war correspondent Lee McCardell wrote at the time, stood up in their foxholes, their hands over their heads and shouted kamerad, or German for friend.

Two months later, crossing the Saar River in Germany, Mr. Wiedorfers unit came under mortar fire. The soldier next to him was killed instantly. Mr. Wiedorfer was struck by shrapnel, and the blast shattered his leg and injured his hand. He recuperated at a hospital in England, where he was placed in traction.

One day, a fellow patient was reading the Stars and Stripes newspaper and informed Mr. Wiedorfer that hed just received the Medal of Honor for his Christmas Day bravery.

To be perfectly honest, Mr. Wiedorfer told the Sun in 2008, I wasnt really sure what the hell [the Medal of Honor] was, because all I was, was some dogface guy in the infantry.

A few days later, still sitting in a hospital bed, Mr. Wiedorfer was presented the Medal of Honor while a military band filled the wards hallways with pomp and circumstance.

Paul Joseph Wiedorfer was born July 17, 1921, in Baltimore. He graduated from the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute high school in 1939.

After the war, he was treated to a ticker-tape parade down the streets of Baltimore but spent three years in and out of hospitals recovering from his wounds.

Besides the Medal of Honor, Mr. Wiedorfers decorations included two awards of the Purple Heart.

He separated from the military in 1947 as a master sergeant and was a power station operator with Baltimore Gas and Electric when he retired in 1981.

In the early 1990s, a man came to Mr. Wiedorfers home and offered to polish his Medal of Honor. The man took the authentic medal from its ceremonial shadow box and replaced it with an imitation. Mr. Wiedorfers stolen medal was returned to him in 1995. Stephen Pyne, who was charged with the theft, was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Mr. Wiedorfers wife, the former Alice Stauffer, died in 2008. A daughter, Nancy Mazer, died in 2010.

Survivors include three children, Randee Wiedorfer of Parkville, Md., Paul J. Wiedorfer Jr. of Baltimore and Gary Wiedorfer of Cocoa, Fla.; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

As he aged, Mr. Wiedorfer said he prayed for the day there would be no living recipients of the Medal of Honor.

Because, he once said, it will mean that we have learned to live in peace.

Today, 84 recipients remain.

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He got away with it until one Admiral realized that his solid gold honor dolphins had been replaced by a cheap modern example when he opened the frame to show a researcher the pin. Then it all fell apart. Here are just a few of the articles about his activities.


Actually, it was Admiral Fluckey's engraved Navy Cross (according to the Admiral when he showed the Cross to me at his home in 1999...)

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I was working on these issues with colleagues at USNA in the aftermath of Pyne's actions, Fluckey was one, and I think Rindskopf was the one with the honor dolphin. I think the number of medal groups was around 31 or so.

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Many years ago, I knew a B-17 pilot with the 91st BG. He told me a story exactly like this that he said had happened to a pal of his. This would have been the early 90s at that time. I can't help but think it could have been the creature in question.

Wish I knew who the vet was who'd gotten his medals stolen and replaced with modern copies. The man who told me about this sadly passed away in 1999 so there's no way to go ask who he was talking about...


The onyl thing about all this that surprises me is that more people aren't doing it. I know of MANY collectors who get right up to the line on doing the same thing, but stay just shy of brekaing any laws. Schmoozing vets out of their stuff, shamefully going up to anyone in that age group and bodly asking if they have any of their WW2 stuff left and talking them out of it.

Heck, I know of a guy who frequents this very forum who I have personally seen him do that more than once...

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Lee, I am aware of a similar story to that told by your 91st BG pilot, but this happened in the late 80's/early 90's and concerned a 351st BG vet. I can't say it was Pyne, but the story sounds familiar.



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Pyne spent a lot of time combing the West Point and Annapolis graduate registers looking for flag officers in the DC/MD/VA area. Using a variety of approaches (writing a book, a graduate student working on a thesis, etc), he would work his way into their good graces by knowing their backgrounds and listening to their war stories. He was very articulate and very charming. In one case, the general's personal assistant helped Pyne carry everything to his car (including the certificate for the WWI Silver Star earned by the general's father). While he preferred to target flag officers, he was not above hitting targets of opportunity.


The scam started to unravel when a collector, who was unhappy about not getting the "honor dolphins" group of ADM E.T. Reich (3 Navy Crosses, etc), called the admiral on the pretext of "writing a book" and asked about the badge. The admiral said it was hanging on his wall, but took the frame down and checked. The framed dolphins were brand new and not engraved. The admiral's son was a Maryland state trooper who took it from there.


Pyne spent 15 months as a guest of the state of Maryland, being released in August 1997. He's been seen at militaria shows, and has bought and sold on Ebay (as "Glover2"). If I get so much as a hint that he's up to his old tricks, I know some people in the law enforcement community who would be most happy to put him away again.


Steve, if you are reading this, you still owe me a lot of money!

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I think the first time I heard about this was when Dave mentioned Admiral Fluckey in a post a while back. I cannot believe he did so little time. I would sooner have AIDS than cheat a vet out of such things.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Seems odd. Computer hackers and people who mess with kids can be court ordered to stay away from certain things, why couldn't this guy be ordered to never hassle with medals again? A judge could do that...

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