Cookie Cutter Sociopath?


Yes, pun intended. This past week I’ve been learning more about Barry H. Landau (he’s especially important; get the H in there). As the Washington Post called him, he’s the “the once-esteemed collector of presidential memorabilia” who was sentenced to seven years in federal prison for stealing historical documents.


More than 10,000 “objects of cultural heritage” worth more than $1 million — including letters signed by George Washington, John Hancock, John Adams, Karl Marx, Marie Antoinette and Napoleon Bonaparte — were recovered from Landau’s Manhattan apartment, court records say.

The scheme unraveled last summer in Baltimore, when an employee of the Maryland Historical Society spotted Savedoff (his young accomplice) stealing a text from the city-based archive. Landau and Savedoff, who were both living in New York, were indicted in July and charged with taking dozens of documents and selling several of them, though prosecutors said there were thousands that were pilfered.

This is old news, right? So why am I telling you this? Almost instantly upon hearing about Landau, I thought, “wow, he’s using some of the oldest tricks in the book.” In many ways, this guy seems to be a textbook narcissistic sociopath. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s violent; it means he’s crafty, self-serving, and self-important.

What really grabbed me about this story is that Landau would bring cakes and cookies to the librarians and archivists at the institutions he robbed. After these attempts to ingratiate himself to those employees, he would proceed to insert our precious historical artifacts into specially designed deep pockets in his clothing. Some documents were also found in his laptop case. He was caught after a Maryland Historical Society employee witnessed his klepto tactics firsthand.

The cakes and cookies bit really struck a chord because of my own experiences with a low to no conscience type who surely couldn’t be guilty because– they were involved in charitable activities and baked for people. That experience, among others, taught me that the first thing dishonest people, particularly sociopathic types, will do when entering a new situation is ingratiate themselves to people. If you have to carve that into your dining room table to recognize it when it occurs, please consider.

They might be hired to do one job, but if they recognize that they can get promotion and protection from higher ups, they might end up doing something entirely different. Those who question their autonomy are usually ground into a pulp. If they need gatekeepers to look the other way, as in Landau’s case, they will ply them with gifts and favor. And oh… they will prey upon your sympathies with reckless abandon. They just CAN’T be guilty of wrongdoing because they’ve had a hard life, or they’ve gone through a tragedy, or they’ve survived something– as if that makes a person moral and trustworthy. Both monsters and mahatmas come out of the school of hard knocks.

Female sociopaths can position themselves in a supposedly subservient role, use sex, and stroke egos to get what they want. I’ve seen them situate themselves as alleged victims of other employees to activate the “defender” part of a male supervisor’s character. They might appear motherly or sacrificial, almost a saint in the eyes of those whose butts they’re kissing. Whatever method sociopaths use, they lull their “defenders” into believing they can do no wrong and anyone who accuses them is lying or crazy.

The sad part? I’ve seen intelligent, educated people, especially men, fall for this time and time and time again. It’s funny how the more your feelings and ego are manipulated, the further you walk away from logic and common sense. To me this is so disgustingly transparent and I get frustrated that others fall under the sociopath’s spell instead of seeing them for what they really are. This has quite a bit to do with why I left law enforcement, but in a classic Robert Hare Snakes in Suits scenario, I’m not the one who was defended when push came to shove.

The great tragedy is that attempts to find justice in some of these situations have just lead to the complainants or witnesses being told that “there’s no way” that person could do that. If an investigation is done it may just be conducted by people close to the suspect which is not objective. I’ve seen the police snowed by some of these people but the police will also be the first to defend them. This is why I believe that other agencies or civilian panels need to conduct most internal investigations at government agencies.

Such experiences have only fueled my passion for teaching others the tricks of the sociopath’s trade. I have seen low to no conscience types get away with sexual assault, domestic violence, harassment, lying in background checks, and even suspicious deaths. At one job I encouraged the company’s owner to do at least cursory background checks on applicants and sure enough, the immaculately groomed, svelte young woman who caught the owner’s eye did not actually have the college degrees listed on her resume.

These holes in dishonest people’s stories will usually appear if you dig deep enough. The problem is that they can be so fun, charming, or in need of sympathy that we take them at their word. They can appear to be the perfect job candidate with all the right answers or the long-suffering caregiver who just needs a leg up. But employ someone who will take an objective look into their past and you might find all sorts of discrepancies, exaggerations, and flat out falsehoods.

Barry H. Landau originally fashioned himself as one of the good guys. He was, in a sense, heroic for his drive to preserve historical treasures. He rubbed elbows with politicians and celebrities, attending state dinners and hanging out with artists and actors. For decades he was known for his amazing collections of mementos and documents, and at Oprah’s urging, he wrote a book about it all. He was not only somebody, but somebody who won friends, influenced people, and distributed baked goods. 

When interviewed after his arrest, there was at least one woman who realized he was a phony early on. Apparently she was in the minority because he was able to carry on his crime spree for years. Everyone else either went along with it or looked the other way. Perhaps those who did suspect wrongdoing were reluctant to turn him in for lack of proof. Ultimately, his stories about accompanying presidents on trips and other great feats didn’t add up, but he’s been spinning the same web of lies for so long that he has at least a few defenders who don’t believe he’s guilty.

People of Planet Earth, this is what sociopaths do. They build a false self. They construct a fortress out of sympathy ploys, lies, and strategic flattery and bring those who fall for it into that fortress as their personal army. Those who point out that the lord of that castle is a great pretender are summarily shot down and slandered. The army rushes to defend the great lord, sometimes because it’s easier to do that than stand up to them. Attacking the complainant’s credibility and shutting them up is done to take the spotlight of truth off of the castle walls; if the light remains pointed in that direction it will reveal the deception within.

Men and women who’ve experienced domestic violence might know these tactics well. Abusers sometimes spend years weaving their backstories so that if their victim stands up for themselves, the victim will be seen as a miserable, mentally ill, sniveling attention seeker who’s trying to irrationally ruin their lives. I can picture readers’ heads nodding “yup” here… but would you recognize this same game in the workplace? At church? At a social club? In a school? Or in Barry Landau’s case, in a library?

Know the tactics. Sociopaths instinctively know how to deceive. These moves are second nature to them. Some may hone their skills or practice their lies, and the more they use them the more believable their fables and fabrications may become. They may accessorize themselves with snazzy outfits, charity work, volunteering, the perfect family, cookies and cupcakes, or so on. But keep that spotlight trained on them a little longer than they would like. Darkness hates light and they might slip and reveal themselves, or you might see some red flags that were otherwise hiding in the shadows. Red, after all, can look like black in poor light.

While I’m sure not all employees of the institutions Barry Landau tried to sweet-talk his way into fell for the sugar-coated bootlicking, or even most of them, his pastry pushing ways are so pathetically typical of sociopaths. They appear as acts of kindness, but when viewed along with other aspects of the person, they appear… hinky. Hollow. Disingenuous. Desperate. I would love to interview some of the recipients of the baked bounty because they probably had their antennae up around this guy. Perhaps they just knew things weren’t right but had no way to prove it.

The moral of the story is, beware the sociopath, for– to paraphrase 2nd Corinthians 11:14– Satan himself masquerades as a purveyor of pastries.


Profit is sweet, even if it comes from deception. –Sophocles


©2013 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

8 thoughts on “Cookie Cutter Sociopath?

  1. Victor Kim the sociopath and pathological liar doing ministry in New York. Beware of my pAstor victor Kim. He is the author of a biblical theology of worship. Great writer and biblical scholar, but text book sociopath. Keep your women away from this sociopath.


  2. wildninja, I am dealing with 2 psychopaths right now – one a sibling and the other the attorney representing the sibling. And a biased judge (estate case). It is awful especially since the attorney has vowed to continue filing (groundless and frivolous) personal lawsuits so he can continue the abuse ad nauseum. The stories I could tell on how a P works in the injustice system! By now, I should have a post-doctorate in the subject. The civil and family courts are a playground for these people.

    I am experiencing Legal Abuse Syndrome. Then I remind myself what others are going through ( and see that it could be worse.

    These people are pure evil. They eventually destroy everyone they come in contact with and it’s best to keep as far away from them as possible.


    1. Ah yes, abuse by paper, something I have experienced as well. That topic is on my to blog list (along with too many other things). I’m so sorry you’re going through that. You already recognize what’s going on; they’re trying to wear you down and make you kowtow to their demands. Or they try to drain all of your financial resources dry.

      That blog link you sent is powerful. What a horrible story– sounds like the mother was forced to give visitation of her toddler to her ex, who murdered him. Bless that woman for getting out there and fighting for justice. I appreciate you telling me about that blog.

      It’s interesting how you say you should have a post-doctorate in this subject. Having clashed with sociopathic people both in my personal life and the workplace, I feel that I have a PhD in the subject. I’ve dealt with it to some degree most of my life. But it seems that some people won’t listen unless you have an actual college degree to go with it, which is part of why I earned a M.A.


  3. So what is the best strategy for healing? Mrs. Cupcake and her family manipulated me for two years…her and her husband have honed the skills of image manufacturing for years…in the church. I finally walked away from the friendship and established no contact to the best of my ability, but we do share the same social circles in relation to church (which, by the way, is their ONLY social circle). They went underground for a while (she stepped out of ministry, he stepped down from being an “elder”) but recently her and her husband are ramping up again to re-enter ministry and establish their “power” over others. The thing is, very few, maybe a handful, are on to them and even so, they are great at convincing others they have “changed.” Is the only answer leaving the church and our friends? Do I share what happened to me and risk looking irrational and crazy and retaliation? Do I just go on living my life, smile and ignore them while they manufacture their own stories of why we are no longer friends? Thanks for the post. Incredible.


    1. Wow, fantastic question, and the nickname “Mrs. Cupcake” made me laugh out loud. Perhaps I should start a children’s book series called “Mrs. Cupcake and Mr. Cookie” to educate children about manipulative people. Hmm… but then we’d never look at baked goods the same way again.

      I don’t know what you should do… the first thing that pops into my head is asking where they’re at in the church hierarchy. Is there someone above them that you could share your story with in confidence? It sounds like she’s an elder, so hopefully there are pastors above her, and maybe even district leaders above that. I’ve gone straight to the senior pastor before about my experiences with sociopaths.

      The word boundaries also pops into my head. I don’t know what these people have done but if they’re dangerous to you in any way– and I don’t just mean physically– obviously you want to keep your distance as much as you can. Don’t give them opportunities for them to do further damage. This doesn’t mean they should drive you away from your spiritual support system though.

      This is a good reminder that there are both sheep and wolves in church. Unfortunately the church can be prime hunting ground for predators. I’m reminded of when Jesus said that there are religious-sounding people who are whitewashed tombs, polished and shiny on the outside, but on the inside full of dead men’s bones.

      These are your choices and I always remind people that I’m not a lawyer, doctor, or mental health professional, nor do I play one on TV. But in these situations I do think it’s important that others know your side of the story, especially those in authority. That can include the police and attorneys if applicable

      As far as healing, stay as far away as you can from the circumstances that continue to hurt you and find a good counselor or confidante if you’re able. I hope there’s someone on the pastoral staff who will listen. Also, stay close to God. Remember that He knows exactly what you’re going through and can use it for His purposes. A great way to heal is to reach out to others who are having similar experiences. 🙂


      1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and heart-felt reply! I greatly appreciate your time. I wish I would have found your blog long ago, but I have stumbled through the past year and I feel like I’ve finally got my head above water. Started counseling recently and that has helped tremendously with the depression that resulted from the fallout of this relationship.

        Are they dangerous….hmmm. Hard to know…but I don’t want to take a gamble on that one. We did speak to our pastor but absolutely nothing came of it. He doesn’t want to get his hands dirty in dealing with these people, but the sad thing is, they are quietly wreaking havoc in the church. Some of the most seductive people I have ever met.

        I have as little contact as possible and am getting so much stronger with boundaries. I know, ultimately justice will be served and I may not be around to see it. God works in His time an His ways. I shudder to think of them seducing another victim (or victims) into their crazy-making, but realize I have zero control over that.

        Thank you for your encouragement and wise words…oh and I love the Mrs. Cupcake & Mr. Cookies idea!!


  4. Tough post to read, because it is so true and realistic. It also requires us to get out of victim mode and realize we are being played (or worse). We participate by allowing these individuals to get away with their horrible deeds.


    1. Thank you for saying it like it is! There is so much evil in this world because most of the time people turn a blind eye to it. It’s easier to go with the flow than take a stand.


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