There was an 1830 Book of Mormon that Kevin Schuwer was supposed to sell on behalf of the owner. Schuwer has since admitted he never forwarded the money to the seller.
There also was a photo of Orson F. Whitney, an early 20th-century apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Charging documents say Schuwer stole it from the special collections at Utah State University’s library in Logan.
Add to those items Latter-day Saint texts and other goods described in court papers as counterfeits: an 1835 hymnal and an 1849 gold coin. Schuwer admitted in court that he sold both fakes for a combined $125,000.
Schuwer now faces a debt of $539,000 in civil court and up to 10 years in prison in criminal court, though that possible punishment might increase if police at Brigham Young University can prove he stole items there, too.
For now, the only criminal charges filed against Schuwer are one count of theft and one count of burglary in state court in Logan for taking the Whitney photo. Those charges were filed Monday.
An arrest warrant was issued for Schuwer on Tuesday. As of Tuesday evening, he had not been booked into the Cache County jail. No court docket lists an attorney representing him, and Schuwer did not return a message seeking comment.
Schuwer is listed in court records as a 29-year-old Orem resident. BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said he attended there from fall 2013 through winter 2015 but did not earn a degree.
The allegations against Schuwer come as no surprise to Ryan Roos, a rare-Mormon documents and book dealer. In an interview Tuesday, Roos called Schuwer “the next Mark Hofmann,” a reference to the infamous “Mormon bomber” fraudster to whom all other Latter-day Saint document forgers are compared.
Roos said he and his partner met Schuwer three years ago and immediately decided not to deal with him. “He was a newcomer who immediately began misrepresenting things,” Roos said.
In one episode, Roos sold a large 1893 photo of the Salt Lake Temple. Schuwer apparently purchased it from the person who bought it from Roos. Then, Roos said, Schuwer tried to sell it to Roos by embellishing who took the photograph and the collection from which it came. Knowing the truth about the photo, Roos said he declined the offer and warned other dealers and collectors to stay away from Schuwer.
Like Hofmann, Schuwer would try to pressure people into making sales.
“Competition is so fierce among dealers,” Roos said, “that if something spectacular is offered, we feel like we need to jump on it immediately.”
Public records don’t show that Schuwer made as many fakes as Hofmann, whose schemes unraveled in 1985, when he sent two bombs in an effort to cover up his forgeries. Two people died, and Hofmann is serving a life sentence at the Utah State Prison.
Instead, court records suggest Schuwer focused more on theft. In a civil judgment entered earlier this month in state court in Provo, Schuwer admitted to four instances when he played the intermediary between the plaintiff and a buyer or seller and kept money without delivering the goods.
Those goods included a 1614 King James Bible that was purported to have been previously owned by King James. Schuwer admitted keeping $105,000 in cash or other assets, and the plaintiff never got the Bible.
It was a similar story with an 1837 Book of Mormon, signature scripture of the Utah-based faith, that was represented to have been owned by Emma Smith, wife of church founder Joseph Smith. There, Schuwer kept $129,000 without delivering the book.
Schuwer apparently filed court papers admitting to the frauds and thefts in an effort to settle the lawsuit against him, and he agreed to repay the plaintiff $539,000.
Even as Schuwer was settling his civil case, police at BYU and USU say he was stealing from their campus libraries.
In a search warrant filed in state court in Provo, a detective with the BYU Police Department wrote that Schuwer entered the special collections section of the campus library Oct. 11 and asked to see photos there. The detective wrote that Schuwer removed an original photo of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young bodyguard Porter Rockwell and replaced it with a copy.
Schuwer sold the original to a collector in Utah County for $2,000, the detective wrote. The collector bought some Latter-day Saint books from Schuwer, too, that were marked as belonging to BYU. That collector notified police, and the campus has recovered all the items, the detective wrote.
In an interview with police, Schuwer admitted to taking the photo and six rare books from BYU’s special collections, the search warrant says. Police sought to search Schuwer’s cellphone and iPad to determine how many other photos he made copies of so he could steal the originals.
At USU, charging documents say Schuwer was seen on camera Oct. 19 sliding the Whitney photo into his laptop case. The charging documents also say he attempted to sell the photo that night. One person bought it, then discovered Schuwer shouldn’t have had it, returned it to him and got his money back. Schuwer then sold the Whitney photo and other historical pictures to another person for $1,500, according to campus police.