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Official admits dealing in stolen items

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A retired federal labor corruption investigator admitted a role in the fencing of stolen architectural relics, including 200-year-old gates stolen from a historic church in Society Hill.

Authorities alleged Charles W. Kass bought $120,000 worth of mantels, doors, stained glass, grates, moldings and other decorative pieces, then resold them to antique dealers.

Kass, 53, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal charge of interstate transportation of stolen property and faces up to 21 months in prison at his Feb. 8 sentencing.

Prosecutors said he acted as a fence for thieves ``robbing poor neighborhoods of their architectural heritage.''

Federal prosecutor Linda Dale Hoffa said wiretaps show Kass even talked to his suppliers from his phone at the Department of Labor Inspector General's Office, in the same building as the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The 7-foot-tall, wrought-iron gates were stolen from St. Peter's Episcopal Church in February 1998. Hoffa said Kass paid $600 for the gates and sold them for $1,100 to an antique dealer. The dealer learned they were stolen and threatened to call police, and Kass returned the gates to the church, authorities said.

Kass would not comment outside court. His lawyer, Jeffrey M. Kolansky, called Kass' conduct a ``colossal mistake in judgment.''

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