Yorker pleads guilty in ‘Afghan Girl’ theft

Staff and wire report

WEST CHESTER, Pa. — A former suburban Philadelphia art gallery employee from York County has pleaded guilty to her role in the theft of dozens of prints, including the “Afghan Girl” photograph that once graced the cover of National Geographic.

A former swim coach has agreed to a tentative plea deal for allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with a swimmer.

The Daily Local News reports West York resident Bree DeStephano entered the plea last week to felony charges of theft, conspiracy and criminal use of a communication facility.

DeStephano was arrested last year. Authorities say she conspired with a gallery manager in Durango, Colorado, to steal photographs, prints and books from Steve McCurry Studios in Exton. Authorities say DeStephano also used aliases to sell dozens of McCurry’s books online.

Sentencing is tentatively scheduled for June.

DeStephano, of 1917 W. Market St., originally was charged with 52 counts of theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property, a count of conspiracy to commit theft by unlawful taking, dozens more counts of other types of theft, 20 counts of forgery, 325 counts of criminal use of a communication facility and more than 100 other related charges such as tampering with records, device fraud and fraud by simulating objects of antiquity, according to court records.

Until her alleged thefts were discovered in November 2013, DeStephano worked as the manager for fine art print sales for McCurry, according to the documents.

McCurry has taken a host of acclaimed photos, but the one that's the best recognized is that of the "Afghan Girl" — a photo that ran on the cover of a 1985 issue of National Geographic and depicted a young Afghan woman, a refugee in Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Both the first print police say DeStephano stole and the one she tried to steal, which resulted in her getting caught, were the "Afghan Girl."