Harold Gordon faces up to 20 years in prison after entering his plea Tuesday to wire fraud.
Prosecutors say the 69-year-old turned a plain writing desk into the “Bingham Family Civil War Memorial Secretary” and sold it to an antiques dealer for $64,500.
The piece was said to be a gift given to a Civil War veteran in honor of his brother who was killed in the Battle of Antietam.
The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art purchased the piece at a New York antiques show in 2015.
Gordon says he sold the piece because he needed the money.
The museum said it has been offered a full refund.