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Fake pottery charges will be dropped if woman pays refund

June 16, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Clearfield County, Pa., woman accused of selling counterfeit John Bell pottery is off the hook in Franklin County, but still faces charges of selling fake antiquities in Adams County, according to Franklin County Assistant District Attorney David Rahauser.

Cheri I. Stauffer, 48, of Curwensville, Pa., waived her preliminary hearing Tuesday on a felony charge of theft by deception and a misdemeanor charge of simulating objects of antiquity, Rahauser said. The charges will be dismissed if she makes restitution of $2,800 to Washington Township residents Terry and Linda Barkdoll by June 23, he said.

If restitution is not made by that date, Rahauser said the charges will be consolidated with similar charges in Adams County.

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John Bell opened his kiln in Waynesboro, Pa., in 1833 and the company stayed in the family until 1896. Bell and his family over the years, produced about 10,000 pieces a year and their work became famous in the Shenandoah and Cumberland valleys in the 19th century, according to James M. Smith, executive director of the Nicodemus Center for Ceramic Studies at Penn State Mont Alto.

Bell pottery is considered classic American folk art and is found in noted museums, including the Smithsonian Institution, Smith said in March.

Sgt. Vernon Ashway of the Washington Township Police Department said Stauffer faces similar charges in Adams County where she is charged with selling phony antiques to a father and son. Ashway said the amount involved in that case is approximately $23,000.

"That will probably go the route and she's asserted her innocence throughout," Stauffer's attorney Sam Stretton said of the Adams County case. He said Stauffer is scheduled for an October trial.

Stretton said there was no admission of liability by Stauffer in Tuesday's settlement.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, the Barkdolls contacted township police on Feb. 9, reporting that they had purchased a John Bell pitcher from Stauffer on Dec. 22, 2003. Stauffer told Terry Barkdoll her mother had purchased a number of John Bell pieces 20 to 30 years earlier, but was now in a nursing home and Stauffer was selling them off to pay the bill.

Some weeks after the purchase, Terry Barkdoll spoke with a friend - one of the Adams County buyers - who had purchased several pieces from Stauffer, the affidavit stated. Stauffer told that man she was selling off the pieces to purchase "some other pieces she had her eye on," according to the affidavit.

On Feb. 7, Terry Barkdoll and the other man met with Dr. Eugene Comstock, a retired Winchester, Va., dentist and "well-known authority on John Bell Pottery," according to the affidavit. It was Comstock's opinion that the pieces were forgeries, the affidavit stated.

Stauffer was arrested Feb. 26 on a warrant charging her with selling the fake pottery to the Adams County buyer, the affidavit stated. During a search of her home, police said "several items of pottery were found, as well as pottery making equipment."

"It was a question of whether or not we could get the Barkdolls back their money promptly," Rahauser said of the agreement. Holding the pitcher, Rahauser said it had been forfeited as part of the agreement, but he did not know what will be done with the pottery.

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