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Bergen Auction House Owner Among Trio Charged In Scheme To Sell Stolen ‘Hotel California’ Notes

Three men who surrendered to authorities in Manhattan to face charges stemming from the theft of handwritten notes and lyrics to the classic rock and roll album “Hotel California” included the CEO of a Bergen County-based auction house. 

An indictment returned by a grand jury in Manhattan accuses Edward Kosinski of Franklin Lakes and two alleged co-conspirators with scheming to profit from the stolen material produced by singer-songwriter Don Henley, who co-founded the Eagles with the late Glenn Frey in the early 1970s.

According to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, both Kosinski and Craig Inciardi of Brooklyn knew that the “developmental lyrics” to “Hotel California” had been stolen when they tried to resell them after buying them from New York City rare-book dealer Glenn Horowitz.

Bragg pegged the value of the materials at roughly $1 million.

“These defendants attempted to keep and sell these unique and valuable manuscripts, despite knowing they had no right to do so,” the DA said Tuesday. “They made up stories about the origin of the documents and their right to possess them so they could turn a profit.”

Attorneys for the three men issued a joint statement Tuesday professing their innocence.

“The DA’s office alleges criminality where none exists and unfairly tarnishes the reputations of well-respected professionals,” it said. “We will fight these unjustified charges vigorously.”

It’s no surprise that the 100 pages of notes and lyrics for tunes including “Life In the Fast Lane,” “New Kid In Town” and the album’s title track would become objects of desire.

When musicologists discuss American equivalents to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” most inevitably begin with the Eagles’ seminal recording, which was as successful commercially as it was received critically.

Half a century since its 1976 release, “Hotel California” is so ingrained in the culture that the Eagles are still packing arenas two years into a world tour of playing the album front to back with a full orchestra.

The manuscripts had been stolen in the late 1970s by an author hired to write a biography of the Eagles, Bragg said. He then sold them to Horowitz in 2005, the DA said.

Horowitz, 66, who once got a reported $20 million for Bob Dylan’s massive archive, sold the “Hotel California” notes to Inciardi and Kosinski, the indictment returned against the trio alleges.

Inciardi, 58, of Brooklyn, works as a curator for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. A spokeswoman there said he’s been suspended.

“We do not tolerate conduct that compromises the integrity of our collection or our institution,” Vice-President Dawn Wayt said. “When we became aware of this matter, we suspended the employee and retained experienced outside counsel to conduct an internal investigation.”

Kosinski, 59, who’s married to New York real estate heiress Jacqueline LeFrak, has brokered some high-profile deals through Gotta Have Rock And Roll, an auction house based in Franklin Lakes that specializes in music and sports memorabilia.

Its most-recognized items include Elvis Presley’s 1942 Martin D-18 “Sun Sessions” guitar ($1,320,000), the piano on which John Lennon composed “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “A Day In The Life” ($725,000), and a Les Paul 1957 Goldtop Gibson that belonged to Duane Allman ($1,050,000).

Kosinski once butted heads with Madonna over selling some personal items that included a breakup note from the late Tupac Shakur. He was also surprised two years ago when a black Fender Stratocaster that had belonged to Eric Clapton didn’t spark a single bid after opening at $1 million.

After buying Henley’s work from Horowitz, the two other men turned around and tried to re-sell it, the New York indictment alleges. That’s when the famed drummer got wind of what was up.

“When Don Henley learned that Inciardi and Kosinski were trying to sell portions of the manuscripts, he filed police reports, told the defendants that the materials were stolen, and demanded the return of his property,” Bragg said in a news release.

You could say they didn’t see the stop sign and took a turn for the worse.

“Rather than making any effort to ensure they actually had rightful ownership, the defendants responded by engaging in a yearslong campaign to prevent Henley from recovering the manuscripts,” the district attorney said.

At one point they tried conning Henley into buying back the documents even though they were also trying to launder them through Christie’s and Sotheby’s, the indictment returned in Manhattan Criminal Court alleges.

Bragg’s office executed a series of search warrants that produced manuscripts from Kosinski’s home in Franklin Lakes and Sotheby’s, the 38-page indictment says.

The documents include emails among the men discussing cover stories. In one, Horowitz wrote that they could claim they’d come from the then-recently deceased Frey.

“(Frey), alas, is dead and identifying him as the source would make this go away once and for all,” he wrote.

In another email included in the indictment, Kosinski tells a Sotheby’s employee: “Don Henley still wants this back. Please do not tell any potential bidders that (Henley’s) attorneys are inquiring about the lyrics.”

In yet another, it says, Kosinski called Henley “one of the most litigious people on earth” but insisted he “has no claim.”

Guess again, said Henley’s manager, Irving Azoff.

“This action exposes the truth about music memorabilia sales of highly personal, stolen items hidden behind a facade of legitimacy,” Azoff said Tuesday. “No one has the right to sell illegally obtained property or profit from the outright theft of irreplaceable pieces of musical history.”

Horowitz is charged with conspiracy, attempted criminal possession of stolen property and hindering prosecution. Inciardi and Kosinski are each charged with criminal possession of stolen property and conspiracy.

All three entered not-guilty pleas and were released following Tuesday’s initial court appearance in the city.

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