More than two years ago, a round, sterling silver belt buckle made by the American artist Alexander Calder — best known for making large, metal mobiles — went missing from the home of a recently deceased Yarmouth woman.
The buckle, valued at up to $10,000, has been returned to its owner’s heirs after a prominent auction house brought it to the foundation that guards Calder’s legacy, and the foundation alerted Yarmouth police.
As a result, a Windham man who worked as a gardener and handyman for the late owner has been charged with burglary and theft, both Class C crimes, according to Yarmouth police Chief Daniel Gallant.
The belt buckle — valued at between $8,000 and $10,000 in a 2015 appraisal — was owned by Sarah Scully, who died on June 3, 2020, at the age of 89 in her Yarmouth home, according to documents filed in federal court in Portland.
When and how she acquired the belt buckle is not included in court documents, but it was displayed in a clear plastic box on an orange background with a red border on a shelf in Scully’s dining room.
Contact information for Jeffrey Amundson, 60, who allegedly worked for Scully as a gardener and handyman, was found in Scully’s address book.
The investigation that led to the buckle’s recovery began in August 2020 when Scully’s son, Patrick Scully, reported it missing to the Yarmouth police, according to an affidavit for a search warrant dated July 13, 2022, which was made public in U.S. District Court in Portland earlier this week.
Police then determined that the buckle disappeared from the Yarmouth house between July 17 and 30, 2020.
But the search for it was stalled until June 22, 2022, when the Calder Foundation in New York City told the Yarmouth police that Sotheby’s auction house had asked it to appraise a Calder buckle. Paperwork filed with the buckle said the item belonged to Amundson, but it previously was owned by Sarah Scully.
A handwritten note included in the paperwork said: “If someone else is supposed to have this piece of art, I don’t know who they would be. No one claimed this piece. She lived alone, died suddenly. I hope this info helps.”
He also said that when Sarah Scully died, no one “claimed or recognized [the] item. It would have been thrown out in [a] dumpster if I didn’t grab it.”
Calder is best known for his large, metal mobiles, but he made jewelry in the 1930s and 1940s, according to the foundation set up to preserve his work and legacy.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark from the U.S. attorney’s office in Maine, who handled the case, declined to comment.
That office most likely became involved in the case because the alleged theft took place in Maine, but the buckle was found in New York. Federal prosecutors often work with local police when out-of-state jurisdictions are involved.