I actually had Arkway by the throat in the Fall of 1979 and I blew it.
After I caught Andy Antippas stealing maps from Yale, Antippas made the decision to plead guilty. During the process of deciding his sentence, he told the FBI agent, Matt Mullen, that I was working with that he had sold one of the maps he had stolen from Yale - a unique, manuscript, 17th century, Japanese map of the world to Richard Arkway.
However, that map had been sold by Arkway six months earlier to Mr. Alexander Vietor, then the head of the Yale Map Collection. Clearly Arkway had knowingly bought something from Antippas that he had actually sold to Yale only 6 months earlier.
So the Agent Mullen confronted Arkway with this with Mr. Vietor in the room to back up his accusation of buying goods that he certainly knew were stolen.
Because I had spent over 500 hours on this case over a three year period, Matt Mullen told me of the upcoming meeting. So did Mr. Vietor.
At the meeting Arkway burst into tears and begged to be forgiven. He clearly had been caught
and there was nothing for Arkway left to do but to blubber begging for forgiveness.
There is a wonderful scene in the Movie, "Miller's Crossing" where John Turturro begs Gabriel Byrne for his life. Turturro, sobbing says "Look into your heart' and the first time Byrne lets him off. But it is Turturro's sobbing and begging that steals the movie for Turturro. It is just amazing. Later in the movie Byrne has Turturro in the same spot but this time he kills him when Turturo resorts to the same pathetic begging.
For the last 22 years I have enjoyed seeing this movie because it reminded me of Arkway's performance in front of Agent Mullen and Mr. Vietor.
The reason I say that I BLEW it is that Mr. Vietor called me right after Arkway's performance and asked me if Arkway was a bad guy. He had actually been asked by Mullen if he thought Arkway should be charged. Agent Mullen had spent a lot of time on this case and he wanted to go after Arkway but he needed Vietor to put in the time to build his case. But Mr. Vietor did not want to be involved. He was the essence of old New York wasp society where one reads only about ones birth, marriage and death in the paper. He was a sweet man and hated the idea of his actions ruining anyone's life. And he certainly did not want to get his hands dirty dealing with someone like Arkway.
This continues today where Yale is trying to cover up Fred Musto's theft of over $4,000,000 of maps from Yale. Its just something that refined gentlemen dont like to admit. But it is a pain in the ass for me because I have to compete with dealers who buy stolen material for cut rate prices and then find a way to undercut me.
Getting back to the story, Mr. Vietor then called me to help him decide what to do with Arkway. Basically the decision rested with me but with Mr. Vietor telling me of Arkway's pathetic but deeply moving performance (later backed up by Agent Mullen) begging to be let off.
In the biggest mistake of my business life, I told Mr. Vietor to let him go. I was an idiot but I felt sorry for the guy. Agent Mullen was very disappointed. His job was to put bad guys in jail and I had let him down.
It was the dumbest thing I ever did. Arkway went on to loot more libraries than anyone and his spawn of former rotten employees continue to do so to this very day. And he undercut me with stolen goods for over 20 years. He was worse than Forbes Smiley.
So watching Miller's Crossing has always been a movie that was tough for me to view. I never had the chance again to put Arkway away like Gabriel Byrne had. He was always much more careful to cover his tracks.