Image: Stolen 18-carat bookmark
AP
This photo, provided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, shows a stolen 18-carat gold bookmark, alleged to belong to Adolf Hilter, circa 1943, that was seized by ICE agents in Seattle, Wash., on Tuesday. 
updated 11/26/2008 5:45:36 PM ET 2008-11-26T22:45:36

Authorities have recovered a stolen 18-carat gold bookmark that reportedly was given to Adolf Hitler by his longtime mistress, Eva Braun.

Christian Popescu, a Romanian national, was arrested Tuesday outside a suburban Starbucks after trying to sell the bookmark to an undercover agent for $100,000, according to papers filed in U.S. District Court.

Federal prosecutors said the bookmark was among several items taken in an auction-house heist in Madrid six years ago. At the time, some antiquities experts questioned its authenticity.

The bookmark is engraved with a portrait of Hitler as well as an imperial eagle and swastika, and its inscription indicates that Braun gave it to Hitler to console him after German forces surrendered at Stalingrad.

"My Adolf, don't worry," it reads, adding that the loss was "only an inconvenience that will not break your certainty of victory. My love for you will be eternal, as our Reich will be eternal. Always yours, Eva. 3-2-43."

Agents: Theft broke law
Whether authentic or not, federal agents said its theft broke the law.

"Artifacts of historical significance are not souvenirs for illegal sale to the highest bidder," Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE's office of investigations in Seattle, in a statement.

The operation began when ICE learned a man was trying to sell the bookmark in the Seattle area. An informant contacted Popescu, who confirmed he had the bookmark and provided pictures. Popescu told the informant he wanted $150,000 for it.

Spanish authorities estimated the value of the bookmark at between $13,000 and $17,000, according to court documents.

Investigators set up a meeting with Popescu at a Starbucks coffee shop in Bellevue, where the Romanian man showed an undercover agent the bookmark, charging papers said. He was arrested in the parking lot as the agent paid him $100,000.

Popescu was scheduled to make an initial court appearance Wednesday in Seattle on one count of sale or receipt of stolen goods. It was not immediately known whether he had a lawyer.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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