Former Hammer Museum director admits to stealing museum funds

A cruise ship guest snaps photos of the extensive hammer collection at the Hammer Museum in Haines on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (Jillian Rogers/KHNS)

A former director of the Hammer Museum in Haines has admitted to one count of wire fraud after using PayPal to steal roughly $11,500 from his former employer’s bank account.

Federal prosecutors and 25-year-old Riyan Stossel reached an agreement on Feb. 5. In exchange for dismissal of the criminal charge, Stossel must complete 40 hours of community service and repay the money he stole.

According to court filings, Stossel left the museum in September of 2019 but still had access to the nonprofit’s PayPal account. Stossel admitted to more than 100 fraudulent wire transfers to steal museum funds during a four-month period from Dec. 2019 to March 2020.

The pre-trial diversion agreement must still be approved by a judge. Stossel’s next court appearance is scheduled in March.

The Hammer Museum claims to be the world’s first museum devoted to the tool, with a collection of more than 2,000 hammers. It was established in 2002 by Haines resident Dave Pahl.

Pahl declined to comment but said a statement from the museum’s board would be forthcoming. A public defender representing Stossel didn’t respond to a phone message left on Tuesday.

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