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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Latin Pink Panthers, Diamonds Are Forever...Being Targeted Worldwide

Underworld jewel thieves behind one of largest heists in Palm Beach County last year

A quiet Saturday night. A dark sports utility vehicle eases into the parking lot of a Jupiter private school. The crew goes to work, unscrewing the bulbs of the motion-sensor floodlights and cutting a hole in the school's chain-link fence. They slice the phone and cable lines on a nearby pole.

The target is on the other side: Provident Jewelry store. Whether the crew knows it or not, they are about to pull off one of the largest jewel heists in South Florida history.

They pry open the rear door of an empty suite two doors down from the store. They bust through the drywall to get to the middle suite. Then they force their way into the attic, cutting alarm wires and breaking through the jewelry store's ceiling.

Awaiting them is a Class 2 vault, at least 10 inches of reinforced concrete that even under laboratory conditions takes at least an hour to bust through with high-tech tools and torches.

The crew has time. When store employees come to work Monday, there's a hole in the vault. Roughly 1,600 pieces of jewelry and watches are missing. Retail value: $15 million.

In the concrete rubble, there's a nearly empty bottle of cheap wine.

The burglars may have been celebrating early.

Theft groups target jewelers

Jewel heists are a staple of cinema — intricately planned crimes performed with panache by debonair types like Cary Grant and George Clooney. That glamorized world of gentlemen thieves doesn't exist, but organized jewel-theft rings in South Florida are a reality.

State authorities believe that one group of Cuban immigrants pulled off more than 20 jewelry store and pawn shop burglaries in 18 months. They specialized in rooftop jobs, busting through the ceiling.

Then there are Colombian gangs that rob traveling jewelry salesmen, sometimes spending days shadowing their targets. Other brazen groups use distraction techniques, with up to 10 people at once going into the store during business hours.

When it comes to unloading stolen jewelry, Miami is one of the most popular cities in the country to fence the hot goods, according to the multi-agency South American Theft Group Task Force, based out of the FBI's South Florida office.

Within a matter of hours after jewels are stolen, the thieves often meet with fences, according to task force members. Diamonds can be untraceable once they are popped out of their settings. Gold can be melted.

The recovery of stolen jewelry is extremely unlikely. Steve Wexler, the president of Wexler Insurance Agency, one of the largest jewelers' insurance agencies in the country, said it has been his experience that the recovery rate is less than 1 percent.

Hot diamonds end up in the stream of commerce and can even find their way back to retail stores, Wexler said. It is estimated fences typically pay thieves about 25 percent of the wholesale price of the stolen jewelry, he said.

"Where the money is going depends on the individual involved," said Dave Carrazana, an Aventura police officer part of the task force. "Some look into the future and some live for today. A lot will spend their money foolishly. Others have sent money back to Colombia and established businesses in Colombia to realize legalized profits."Carrazana said he believes there are more than 1,000 members of such organized theft groups operating in the United States. Members often learn the crime trade from their family members, starting off with shoplifting before graduating into stealing jewels, he said.

Tip leads to "El Loco"

The thieves who broke into Provident Jewelry on the weekend of Jan. 22, 2011, were pros. They used a combination of a jackhammer-style tool and a high-temperature cutting torch to penetrate the vault.

They disabled all 16 cameras as well as the surveillance system's digital video recorders. The two main circuit boards for the alarm system were found in a garbage bag.

Jupiter police got their first break in the case about three weeks later when one of the missing 100 loose stones ended up at the Gemological Institute of America in New York City to be examined. That led investigators to a Miami pawn shop where the loose diamonds were being sold.

Then came a tip from someone described in court records as simply "a confidential street source." The source said Pedro Luis Enriquez, aka "El Loco," played a role in the burglary. Enriquez, 40, had been languishing in theMiami-Dade CountyJail since Jan. 27, 2011, on outstanding warrants unrelated to the heist.

Jupiter police learned the Hialeah man had at least 25 prior arrests, including a handful for burglary and theft.

Investigators went to theMiami-Dade CountyJail to look at the property on Enriquez when he was arrested. They found a solid piece of evidence — a $8,000 bracelet from Provident, court records show.

A review of Enriquez's phone calls from the jail revealed that he had talked about winning the lottery and having people take care of watches and diamonds. Court records show his cellphone records also were pulled for the weekend of the heist.

At 2:38 a.m. that Sunday, Enriquez sent a text message to a friend: BINGO.

A day later, he sent another text message: SUPER BINGOOOOO.

Active investigation

Jupiter police Detective Eric Frank believes at least three people participated in the heist, but only Enriquez has been charged in the case. Enriquez is now in the Palm Beach County Jail on $600,000 bond, awaiting trial after pleading not guilty to grand theft and smash-and-grab burglary charges.

"It's still very much an active investigation and we're still hunting for the other players," Frank said. Enriquez did not come up as a primary player in known theft groups, he said.

State authorities announced in June they had busted up a high-end burglary ring responsible for breaking into 20 jewelry stores and pawn shops, netting more than $6 million in merchandise. The group, composed of at least nine Cuban immigrants, lived in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, but would travel as far as Connecticut to pull off burglaries from December 2008 to July 2010, court records show.

The group operated in crews of four to seven people, typically entering through the roof, disabling security systems and burning holes through safes, according to investigators. While they took jewelry and watches, they would not steal guns.

While they were sophisticated enough to make off with about $1 million in merchandise from jewelry stores in Davie and Greensboro, N.C., there were miscues, according to court documents. In the Greensboro burglary, one of the crew members left his cellphone behind, leading authorities to track the phone's path as well as who he called.

Eight of the alleged ring members are in custody, awaiting trial in Clay County for the burglaries. A ninth is a fugitive.Crews younger, more violent

Robert Taylor, founder of the nonprofit South American Theft Group Intelligence Network, said he firmly believes that theft crews are on the rise. Using multiple passports, group members can slide across the borders easily, said Taylor, whose groups acts as a clearinghouse for law enforcement.

Most of the crews are from Colombia with some from Peru or Ecuador, said Lou Mitchell, the FBI supervisory special agent overseeing the South American Theft Group Task Force formed nine years ago. Task force members talked to the Sun Sentinel in general about the groups, but declined to discuss specific cases.

"They commit crimes all over the country," Mitchell said. "When they first started in the United States, there was more of an art on how take property. A lot of times the victims wouldn't know [their jewels were missing] until they went back to their hotel room or left a restaurant. Crews now are younger, more impatient and willing to use violence."

The groups are sophisticated: they deploy lookouts, counter surveillance and multiple cars on a job. They will follow a traveling salesman across state lines on a stakeout, waiting for the moment to pounce.

"They are willing to surveil people for days and watch how police officers patrol a plaza and what kind of unmarked vehicles they may be driving," said Carrazana, the Aventura officer who is part of the task force.

In less than two months in the spring of 2008, there were three robberies targeting jewelry salesmen in Broward County. One thief chased a dealer with a knife at a Miramar gas station. In a Pembroke Pines parking lot, men with guns smashed out a New York diamond dealer's car windows and took $500,000 in jewels.

No fixed dollar amounts have been placed on how much in jewelry is stolen by such organized groups every year, but it is likely to be in the tens of millions, Taylor said.

Pursuit for stolen jewels continues

Rob Samuels, president of Provident Jewelry, said that one year later, the store at 828 W. Indiantown Road has recovered nicely. Gross sales in 2011 actually were up 20 percent despite the store being closed for six weeks, he said.

While insurance covered the losses, employees still monitor the Internet to see if stolen items crop up. Two watches being sold by a South Florida business were recovered and an employee recently found a third one being advertised.

"We're still looking and every time we find something we are hopeful that the trail goes backward and gets more perpetrators and leads to more recovery," he said.

Enriquez isn't talking. After his April arrest, investigators tried to question him about the burglary, according to court records.

He smiled slightly when he was told about the evidence against him. He then said he wanted to talk to his lawyer.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Art Crime, Out Of Africa

This oil painting, Zulu Maiden, was stolen from the JAG.

Thugs eye expensive art works

All the thief needed was a couple of minutes alone, enough time to take the painting off the wall and slip it into his oversized art folder.

He represents a new kind of South African thief, one with a knowledge of art and a willingness to take the risk of tapping this new criminal resource.

The thief had gained entry to the Sandton art dealer’s house by saying he wanted to show some artworks. As the dealer was out of the room making tea, he took the opportunity to remove the George Washington Brownlow painting off the wall.

The man might have got away with it, had it not been for the private investigator tasked with recovering the painting.

Kyle Condon, of D & K Management Consultants, set up a sting. He tracked the man to Mpumalanga and, pretending to be interested in buying the Brownlow, organised a meeting.

“He did make claims that he had certain other art available,” said the PI.

He had also tried unsuccessfully to sell the artwork in a gallery.

Condon got his man, recovered the painting and returned it to the owner, who didn’t wish to press charges.

It is a rare success story at a time when art theft is on the increase.

Over the past couple of months, Condon has been approached by several clients, most of them gallery owners who wanted him to recover stolen artworks.

Art theft expert Bernadine Benson of the police practice department at Unisa agrees.

“Not specifically art theft but the incidents of thefts from museums and art galleries escalated between 2010 to 2011.”

Last month, an oil painting titled Zulu Maiden, by Trevor Makhoba, was stolen from the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG).

Three months earlier two bronze statues, Mourning Woman by Sydney Kumalo and Peter Pan by Romana Romanelli, were also stolen from the gallery.

Those doing the stealing, Benson said, fell into three main categories. “The first-level thief is the person who steals because he was there and thought something could net him a couple of bucks – usually your druggies fall into this category.”

The level-two criminal is more sophisticated. “He breaks in looking for, let’s say, electronic equipment, then stumbles across an artwork, something he has heard of, and decides to steal.

“But there is often a problem. More often than not they steal something too valuable or well known to be able to sell; sadly, these items are usually destroyed to get rid of evidence and hide the crime.”

Benson, who used to work on the SAPS’s Endangered Species Desk, which is responsible for investigating art crime, has had success only with catching level-one and two thieves.

Then you get level three, the criminal masterminds.

“You have the thief who knows his Pierneefs from his Sekotos and this is the dangerous fellow,” Benson said. “He does not get caught because either the item was ‘ordered’ or he already has a network into which he can feed the item.”

An important aspect of fighting this type of crime, Benson said, was creating awareness and getting networks to spread the news quickly when a theft occurred. - The Star

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Murder, Manhatten & Minority Report, As Turner's Exposed In Contemporary Margate

Guards suspected in Goa's biggest robbery

PANAJI: In what could be Goa's biggest robbery, items stolen from the Museum of Christian Art on Wednesday evening are valued at crores of rupees by virtue of being antiques of a unique nature. Museum security guard Luis Bogato, 55, was killed during the robbery.

Old Goa Police suspect the involvement of other security guards and have arrested Ravi Kumar, 20, from Bihar and Tikka Bahadur, 29, from Nepal, on suspicion.

"They have denied involvement. We are corroborating their claims with evidence gathered from the scene of offence. We are also looking into other aspects of the case. It is clear that the robbers' intention was to steal gold and they didn't know the value of antique items as ivory artefacts in the museum are untouched," police said.

Train tickets from Panvel to Margao found in the bushes near the museum, have raised suspicion that security guards may have executed the plan with the help of an outside hand.

"A jacket found near the bushes had railway tickets, indicating that two persons travelled from Panvel to Margao on January 24, and two bus tickets from Margao to Panaji and Panaji to Old Goa. We also found three live rounds in the jacket. We are investigating whether the plan was hatched in Goa by the security guards and executed with the help of robbers from Mumbai," police said.

"It is suspected that the security guard was attacked in front of the gate and then dragged into the compound. There was a pool of blood at the entrance when we arrived," police said.

Sources said Ravi was arrested after police found a blood-stained pant, suspected to be his, in the bushes. Two more live rounds were found in the pant pocket. "The staff at the museum said the pant belongs to Ravi, who used to regularly wear it to the museum, when he was working there. The pant size is that of Ravi's," police said. Ravi was transferred from museum security duty after the museum committee, unhappy with his behaviour, requested the security agency to replace him, sources said.

What has raised further suspicion is that Ravi has fresh minor injuries on his right hand finger and temple. "We have referred him to Goa Medical College and Hospital for medical examination to check the wound of the age. Also we are trying to verify if the blood stains on the pant are Bogato's," police said.

Interestingly, there are two men on security duty at any given time in the museum. On Wednesday evening, Bogato was alone when the robbers broke in. "Tikka was put on duty but reached the museum at about 7pm, when the police team was already at the spot. When the police asked him to open the main entrance to the museum, he said the keys were with Bogato. He also denied having his mobile number," police said.

The police team had to climb a tree and jump into the compound, where they found the body. "With a cutter we cut open the lock of the museum gate. Later, on checking Tikka's mobile, we found that he had Bogato's number," added police.

Manhattan-Based Art Dealer Charged in Manhattan Federal Court with $4 Million Fraud

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Janice K. Fedarcyk, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) announced charges today against ROBERT SCOTT COOK, a Manhattan-based art dealer, for defrauding one of his clients out of more than $4 million worth of art including works by Pablo Picasso, Edouard Manet, Henri Matisse, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Robert Cook portrayed himself as a responsible art dealer, but the allegations here paint a very different picture. As alleged, instead of acting as an agent on his client’s behalf as promised, Cook sold the works of art behind his client’s back. Cook’s charade has now come to an end.”

FBI Assistant Director in Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk said: “Selling millions of dollars worth of someone else’s art collection and keeping the proceeds is effectively the same as stealing millions of dollars of the collector’s money. Both are forms of theft, plain and simple. The allegation of the complaint is that Mr. Cook is a crook.”

The following allegations are based on the complaint, which was filed today in Manhattan federal court:

COOK was the principal of Cook Fine Art, LLC, a gallery located on Madison Avenue in New York, New York. From 2005 to 2011, COOK engaged in a scheme to defraud one of his clients (the “Collector”) by selling 16 works of art owned by the Collector without his knowledge. The artwork, which was worth over $4 million, included watercolors, drawings, photographs, and other artwork by artists including Picasso, Manet, Matisse, Renoir, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee. COOK sold this artwork to various galleries and auction houses for $4,293,270. He failed to give the proceeds of those sales to the Collector, and lied to the Collector about the status of the art. COOK kept nearly all of the proceeds, except for approximately $100,000 that was paid to galleries as commissions.

COOK also told the Collector that he would submit a number of the Collector’s works for sale at a June 2011 auction, but never did so. In fact, COOK had already sold at least six of the works years before and kept the proceeds—which totaled nearly $2.4 million—for himself. Although COOK told the Collector that the auction had been a success and that the Collector’s works had sold for more than $5 million, COOK never paid the Collector a single dollar.

COOK, 62, of New York, New York, faces a maximum term of 20 years in prison, a maximum term of five years of supervised release, and a fine of the greatest of $250,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain derived from the offense or twice the gross pecuniary loss to the victims.

Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason P. Hernandez is in charge of the prosecution.

The charge and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

28 January 2012 - 13 May 2012

“Magnificent paintings worth crawling on your hands and feet to Margate to see”
Novelist and Psychogeographer Iain Sinclair reviews Turner and the Elements
on Radio 4 Front Row

JMW Turner, Britain’s best-loved painter, created new and unusual combinations of earth, water, air and fire and closely examined their interactions.

In Turner and the Elements, our first major show of the painter’s work at Turner Contemporary, we explore the important role that the depiction of the elements played in his landscape watercolours and paintings.

The exhibition brings together 88 works; 76 watercolours and 12 late oil paintings, many from the Tate collection. Turner’s innovative painting technique and the influence of scientific and technological developments during his lifetime were to revolutionise landscape painting.

Today, nearly two centuries since Turner’s visits to Margate, see first-hand how his dynamic concept of landscape, unconventional use of colour and near abstract watercolours and paintings secured his place as the artist of the elements and the founder of modern landscape painting.

Works on display include Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth exhibited 1842 and The New Moon; or ‘I’ve lost My Boat, You shan’t have Your Hoop’ exhibited 1840. Turner’s frequent visits to Margate and the Kent coast are vividly portrayed, with particular works chosen especially for the exhibition’s time at Turner Contemporary.

Curated by Inés Richter-Musso and Ortrud Westheider, the exhibition is the only opportunity to see this selection of works by Turner together in the UK.

Turner and the Elements is organised in collaboration with Bucerius Kunst Forum, Hamburg and The National Museum, Cracow.

"The world has never seen anything like this picture."
William Makepeace Thackeray, Frasers Magazine, 1844

“The artist delights to go back to the first chaos of the world, or to that state of things when the waters were separated from the dry land, and light from darkness, but as yet no living thing nor tree bearing fruit was seen upon the face of the earth”.
Art critic William Hazlitt commenting on Turner’s work, 1816

"This is the moment I've been waiting for, for ten years - bringing a whole exhibition of Turner's work to Margate" Director Victoria Pomery.

Art Hostage Comments:

God forbid the Tate loses another Turner lent out to a third party Museum.

Really hope security is tight during this exhibition.

Wonder who done the Risk Assessment?

Has the possibility of a "snatch and run" been considered?

Have background checks been made of security staff, cleaners, and contractors?

Could we see a repeat of the Paris, Athens Art Heists whereby a break-in see's several Turners stolen?

Could Balkan criminal associates in England target the Turners then ship them to the Balkans where they would be held (Art) Hostage until ransomed back to willing Art Loss investigators?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Hot Picasso, Hot Art Sets Benchmark That Others Follow

Picasso is the most stolen artist in the world with more than 1,000 of his pieces of work missing

By Rob Cooper

27th January 2012

Appeal: The Art Loss Register offer a $25,000 reward for the return of the missing painting Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow with Flowers in Her Hair

Pablo Picasso is the artist who has more works stolen than anyone else, according to new research.

The Spanish master currently has 1,147 paintings registered as stolen, missing or disputed, which is more than twice as many as the next on the list.

That figure rose recently when his 1939 work 'Woman's Head' was pinched from the Athens' National Art Gallery in Greece.

The Art Loss Register has compiled a list of artists who have had the highest number of works stolen and the countries where the art is mostly taken from, with Britain being the most vulnerable place.

The database lists all the stolen, missing and disputed works of art around the world.

Coming second to Picasso is the modern American artist Nick Lawrence who has 557 stolen works. Most of them went missing in one go in 2004.

In third place is Marc Chagall, the Russian-French 20th century all-rounder, who has 516 stolen works.

Karel Appel, the Dutch painter and sculptor, comes fourth with 505 stolen works, just ahead of Salvador Dali with 504. Joan Miro, David Levine, Andy Warhol, Rembrandt and Peter Reinicke make up the rest of the top ten.

Other artists on the list include Henri Matisse with 205 missing works, Rubens with 169, John Constable with 155 and Thomas Gainsborough with 97.

The Art Loss Register has also revealed that 40 per cent of thefts occurred in Britain and 16 per cent of them were in America.

Stolen: Painting of a 'Dove with Green Peas' by Pablo Picasso, was taken from the Museum of Modern Art in Paris in 2010 in the art heist of the century. There are fears it may have been destroyed. Woman's Head, was recently taken from the Athens National Art Gallery

While metal sculpture thefts have been on the rise in Britain because of the high prices of scrap, valuable works of art have long been stolen to order. They are often used as currency among criminals.

Detective Constable Ian Lawson, from the Metropolitan police's art and antiques department, said art theft was an 'ongoing problem'.

He said: 'There has certainly been an increase in the theft of statues because the price of metal has gone up.

Raided: Marc Chagall's 1914 oil on canvas Study for Over Vitebsk which was taken from New York's Jewish Museum in 2001


The top 10 list of artists with most works stolen:

1) Pablo Picasso - 1,147

2) Nick Lawrence - 557

3) Marc Chagall - 516

4) Karel Appel - 505

5) Salvador Dali - 505

6) Joan Miro - 478

7) David Levine - 343

7) Andy Warhol - 343

9) Rembrandt - 337

10) Peter Reinicke - 336

'War memorials and plaques are being taken for the same reason. They are easily melted down and it then becomes hard to prove what they are.'

He added that there were two types of art criminal - burglars who chance upon good paintings and those who steal to order.

'With other types of art there are really two categories of criminals. One is a burglar who breaks into a million pound house and strikes lucky,' he said.

'He steals a valuable painting and doesn't really know what to do with it. It might be sold on through a car boot sale or at an antiques fair.

'That's often what happens for art that is worth less than £10,000 or £20,000.

'But there are also organised gangs which target country houses and specific high-value art - such as the The Johnson family from Cheltenham.

'They targeted venues that they had researched, and had outlets for the art.

Rembrandt: The Child and the Soap Bubble which was stolen from the Draguignan municpal museum in southestern France

'Often the paintings are stolen and later are offered back to the owners or the insurance company for a tenth of the real value.

'That can be quite tempting for insurers. An example was the theft of the Madonna of the Yardwinder that was worth £50m and was stolen from a castle in Scotland.

'It was apparently offered back to the owners and several people were arrested but were not convicted.

'The other way art is used is as a currency in the underworld. The art is exchanged for drugs or guns.

'Art is easier to take abroad because customs officials won't suspect a painting as being stolen, but if someone took guns or drugs they would be arrested.

'And if a painting has been missing for many years it is quite easy for someone to claim legitimate ownership and it can be very difficult to prove otherwise.'

Charlotte Veenhuijzen, from the ALR, said: 'The Art Loss Register is the world's largest privately managed international database of over 360,000 lost, stolen and looted works of art and antiques and items in dispute.

'It has been collating historical data from private and public sources since its inception in 1990, many of these sources are not available in the public domain and are extremely hard to replicate.

Andy Warhol: Painting of Muhammad Ali which was taken in a raid on a Los Angeles home in September 2009. Orange Marilyn, arguably the artist's most famous work, was also taken

Stolen sketch: Salvador Dali sketch on the back of a restaurant menu was stolen from a house in Sherborne, Dorset. It is worth £30,000

'Registrations include losses and claims from museums, governments, banks, insurance companies, law enforcement agencies, including Interpol, and private individuals.

'The ALR offers itself world-wide as a central database checkpoint for due diligence enquiries and provenance research.

'Our pre-eminence in the field of stolen art has allowed the business to be instrumental in the recovery of over 160 million pounds' worth of stolen items

'We have around 1,147 lost, stolen, in dispute, in liens items registered by Picasso.

'And the ALR has been involved in the recovery of around 29 works by Picasso.'

Ivan Macquisten, editor of the Antiques Trade Gazette, said: 'Looking at most of the names in the top ten, they are all well-known artists who had very long careers, so produced vast volumes of work, which means there is more, potentially, available to steal.

'Picasso's work, as well as being highly valuable, is almost endless, while Chagall lived until he was 97 and Karel Appel started as a teenager, dying when he was well into his eighties.

'Andy Warhol didn't call his workshop the 'factory' for nothing - we're talking industrial quantities of art.

'And David Levine, amazingly, got an audition as an illustrator for Disney at the age of nine, before going on to a career as an illustrator for some of America's leading magazines, producing iconic images.'

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Skylight Prelude As Silver Bounces Back

Thieves enter Olympia gallery through skylight, steal artwork

'Unbelievable,' says gallery owner

An Olympia gallery was burglarized either late Friday night or early Saturday morning by thieves who entered through a skylight. The thieves broke the skylight, rappelled into the gallery, and stole two large pieces of art.

Jo Gallaugher, the owner of the gallery, had a hard time believing just how it happened.

“In a way its flattering that burglars would go to so much trouble,” Gallaugher said.

The works were very popular among men in their 20s, said Jo Gallaugher, the owner of Matter Gallery. One was called “Tribute to the Concussed Skier” by Judd Turner and priced at $800. The other was called "Horizons II" by Jerry Williamson and priced at $600. There are far more expensive pieces in the gallery, Gallaugher said.

The thieves took advantage of darkness caused when Gallaugher turned off the gallery’s main breaker to keep melting snow from dripping down through the ceiling and onto the junction box.

"[It was] not until the police were here and actually investigated and found the footprints on the wall and the heat duct that I really believed that's what actually happened," Gallaugher said.

The thieves also attempted to steal a third piece, Gallaugher said, a coat rack fashioned to look like the space needle.

“They carried it to the back door but likely couldn't make the corner to get it out,” Gallaugher wrote in an email to Q13 FOX News.

"To see a piece that you've stolen, I can't imagine that you would feel anything positive from it every time

Man charged in connection with Cambridge University silver theft

Police said the silverware was taken while the college was open to the public

A 37-year-old man has been charged in connection with the theft of silverware from a Cambridge college.

The "very distinctive" altar pieces were stolen from Corpus Christi College chapel on 9 January, while it was open to the public.

The items were retrieved after being taken to a Cambridge antiques centre for valuation.

A man has been charged with handling stolen goods and will appear at Cambridge Magistrates' Court on Friday.

The silverware was returned to the police by antiques dealer Stephen Hunt, after the silverware was brought into his shop to be valued.

He said: "Generally, members of the public do not have religious artefacts and I had an instinct... that this wasn't what we would call 'right'."

Mr Hunt said he purchased the items for "a pittance" before informing the police.

Deputy of the Year Recovered Antique Silver Worth $30K

Sheriff's Deputy Roger Galvin will be honored on Wednesday

Using a map drawn by a jail inmate and suspected thief, deputy sheriff Roger Galvin drove up and down Highway 1 in San Mateo County searching for a box of antiques stolen from a rural Watsonville home last summer.

He found the 20 silver pieces—worth an estimated $30,000—on the side of the road and returned them to their rightful owner. The Zils Road man was so grateful, he pledged to auction off the items and donate the proceeds to charity.

Galvin will get his own reward for the hard work this week when he is awarded the Deputy of the Year honor by Aptos Post 10110 Veterans of Foreign Wars this week.

Every year a deputy is honored with this award for their outstanding work and dedication. This year, five deputies were nominated by supervisors.

Galvin, a 29-year-old who joined the force less than two years ago, was chosen because of his passion and commitment to the public he serves, according to deputy April Skalland, the Sheriff's Office spokeswoman.

Skalland, who also works in recruitment for the Sheriff's Office and hired Galvin, said he is very smart and computer savvy. But it was his people skills that earned Galvin praise.

In one incident, elderly woman who had been the victim of financial fraud sent a thank you letter to the Sheriff's Office about Galvin's kind and caring demeanor, Skalland said.

"He actually took her to the bank and he sat down with her while the bank went through all the fraud things and she was really thankful for that," Skalland explained.

The antique theft was another case. A resident on Zils Road, west of Watsonville off San Andreas Road, reported the theft on Aug. 25. He suspected a relative who lived in a trailer elsewhere on the property. Galvin was able to search that man's trailer and found pawn slips from shops in San Francisco, Skalland said.

By then, the suspect was in San Francisco caring for another elderly family member—sparking concern that another theft could occur. Galvin spent time visiting pawn shops in the city looking for the stolen goods, Skalland said.

The case broke when the suspect was arrested for an unrelated incident by Scotts Valley Police and Galvin got permission to question him in jail, Skalland explained.

“He confessed to the whole burglary and there were multiple victims," she said.

The suspect told Galvin he had dumped a box full of items on Highway 1 in San Mateo and drew the deputy a map to the location. Galvin drove up and down the highway until “he finally found a box of over 20 antique pieces," Skalland said.

Galvin will receive his Deputy of the Year award at a ceremony Wednesday afternoon.

Stolen French artwork to be repatriated

A stolen work by French impressionist Camille Pissarro is going home after 31 years, thanks to sharp-eyed French investigators and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The work, a monotype (an oil painting transferred to paper) of a bustling market scene called “Le Marche,” was taken from the Faure Museum in Aix-les-Bains, France, in 1981, then smuggled into the United States and sold to an art gallery in San Antonio, Texas.

The work is already safely under lock and key at the French Embassy awaiting shipment to France. It was handed over to a French customs official by U.S. Customs officials last week. On Wednesday, a “repatriation” ceremony at the Kreeger Museum will re-enact the handover for the media and invited guests in the presence of the French ambassador, Francois Delattre.

ICE identified the thief as Emile Guelton, saying he “walked out of the [Faure] museum with the work under his jacket.” In 1985, according to records from a recent court case over ownership of the work, he sold “Le Marche” to J. Adelman Antiques and Art Gallery, which in turn sold it to the Sharan Corp for $8,500. The company was dissolved in 1992, and for the next 10 years one of the company’s owners, Sharyl Davis, displayed the Pissarro in her home.

But when Ms. Davis consigned the work to Sotheby's, the New York auction house, to offer “Le Marche” for sale in 2003, French investigators spotted the work in the Sotheby's catalog — valued at $60,000 to $80,000 — which also mentioned Guelton, and alerted ICE.

“We take action when anything is imported contrary to law — that’s our authority,” Randall C. Karch, the Customs officer in charge of tracking stolen art and artifacts, told The Washington Times.

In June 10, ICE instructed the auction house to withdraw the Pissarro from the sale and declared the work forfeit. Ms. Davis fought hard through the courts to maintain ownership. She brought suit to challenge the French efforts to recover the Pissarro, claiming that she was “an innocent owner” in ignorance of the fact that the picture had been stolen. But a federal jury rejected her arguments, ruling instead that “Le Marche” should be returned to the French museum under the National Stolen Property Act.

An appeals court upheld the sentence on June 3, 2011, and Wednesday Mr. Karch handed the painting to Francois Richard, the French Customs attache at the Washington embassy.

ICE chose the Kreeger Museum as the venue for the repatriation, following its practice of choosing a museum setting when possible. “It’s a small work from a small museum in France, and we’re a small museum, so the choice is appropriate,” said museum director Judy Greenberg.

For ICE the repatriation was all in a day’s work — a week’s work at any rate. The Homeland Security department charged with recovering stolen fine art and artifacts holds as many as three such ceremonies a week. Its list of recent recoveries includes Peruvian human skulls dating from AD 640-890 that had been brought into this country hidden in pottery and a Paul Klee painting recovered in Canada and returned to a museum in Germany.

“We used to recover mostly artifacts, but in the past three or four years stolen art works are becoming more numerous,” said Mr. Karch, a former anti-narcotics Customs agent who was reassigned to tracking down paintings a couple of years ago.

“It’s a growing area,” he said. “There’s a growing awareness of these crimes.”

Melbourne museum reports stolen painting, 12 years after it went missing

The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, one of Australia's leading art galleries, has reported the theft of a painting by British landscape artist Richard Parkes Bonington – 12 years after it went missing.

The country's oldest art gallery has spent more than a decade searching for the oil painting, Low Tide at Boulogne, which is valued at £130,000. But it was not declared stolen because the gallery thought the piece may have been accidentally misplaced and did not want to falsely accuse a staff member or removalist.

Low Tide at Boulogne by Richard Parkes Bonington

The piece, which is unsigned and undated, is believed to have been painted in 1824. It was given to the gallery early last century and is believed to have gone missing in 1999, when the gallery’s 65,000 works were temporarily relocated during renovations. The theft, reported to the Victorian Government last year, came to light after a recent freedom-of-information request by the state opposition.

A report by the gallery said its council of trustees was informed in February 2003 that "in all likelihood, the Bonington work was missing".

Police were reportedly alerted that the painting was missing in 2004.

Meanwhile, the gallery decided to do a stocktake to see if it could locate the painting – a process which took eight years.

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Finally, last year, the painting was declared stolen and placed on the International Art Loss Register.

Subsequently, the gallery director, Dr Gerard Vaughan, informed the Victorian government that "a painting in the state collection, previously considered misplaced, is now suspected to have been stolen." "In all likelihood, this painting is no longer in our possession," he wrote.

Bonington, who died of tuberculosis at age 25, lived for a long time in France and is regarded as a seminal figure in the development of European modernism.

Still, as an Australian art academic noted, the missing piece was hardly iconic and may have been easy for gallery visitors to miss.

"If you have an absolute passion for romantic French landscapes, you could be quite upset not to see this work," said Sasha Grishin, a professor of art history at the Australian National University.

"But for a normal gallery goer, even for a person who is quite passionate about the [National Gallery of Victoria] collection, it's not something that's going to strike you as a major icon missing."

Thieves seeking silver, brass and lead prey on churches

Open door policy at places of worship under threat as antiquities and memorials are taken to sell for scrap.

With its cottages of honey-coloured stone and 12th-century church, Ashton Keynes in Wiltshire could be the archetypal unspoilt English village. Here the Thames is barely a stream, and the pace of life runs as slowly as the river's waters.

So parishioners at Holy Cross church thought nothing of hauling their 19th-century brass lectern out of storage to give it a bit of a show. No matter that the church was unlocked and unsupervised during the day.

But one Sunday morning last September, they had a nasty surprise. "Somebody said, 'Where's the lectern?' and it had gone," says Peter Tuck, lay minister.

News this month that the item had been spotted in Romania, at an antiques fair, was an even greater shock. Gaye Horrell, treasurer at the church, expressed amazement that it had not been melted down, and Wiltshire police initially thought the email informing them of the find – from a curious local who had noticed the inscription referred to Ashton Keynes – was a spoof.

The local force is now confident of getting it back, but Tuck is cautious. "The local police have been speaking to Interpol but we've no idea if they still know where it is, whether they've got hold of it or whether it's been sold."

The lectern, an exuberant, gothic-revival imitation of a type common in medieval churches, takes the shape of an eagle standing on a golden orb. The eagle refers to Saint John the Evangelist and is said to symbolise the heights to which he rises in the first chapter of his gospel. Experts suggest it could make up to £3,000 if sold as an antique, though it might take many months to find a buyer.

While this bit of church kit appears to have escaped the scrapyard, the high price of metals is the main factor in the flurry of recent thefts. Artefacts used in services or to adorn altars can be just as tempting as lead roofs and gutters. The Ecclesiastical insurance company has seen the number of metal theft claims by churches increase from 1,700 in 2010 to more than 2,600 last year.

Manchester Cathedral's busy urban setting couldn't be more different from that of Holy Cross, but it faces a similar threat. On 13 January, someone walked into the medieval building on Victoria Street in the city centre and took a silver altar cross.

Elegantly designed in 1957 and donated to the cathedral by the Mothers' Union, it had adorned its lady chapel for decades. "The cathedral is open to the public every day," says the dean, Rogers Govender. "We do not charge an entry fee, and of course the place is vulnerable."

For Govender and his congregation, the value of such objects goes far beyond what they might fetch for scrap. "I feel really saddened that a house of God is not respected, that somebody could steal from it – and especially steal a cross which is the central symbol of our faith."

Anne Sloman, chair of the Church Buildings Council, said stolen silver was likely to be melted down. "That would be the worry – that the value of the solid silver is worth more than the artefact."

She and her colleagues have been lobbying for better regulation of scrap merchants, particularly when it comes to cash payments for metal, which many see as the root of the problem.

The recent spate of thefts, brazen in more ways than one, has left churchwardens everywhere facing a dilemma. "A lot of country churches do lock – but we feel it's very important the church is kept open," says Tuck in Ashton Keynes. "There's a churchyard that's still used and families come up to visit the graves. The church is there if they want to pop in for 10 minutes."

St Mary's Church, Bishopsbourne, nestled in the gently rolling Kent countryside, looks even less likely than Holy Cross to make the news for anything other than its well-kept hedgerows. "Even though it's a country church it's a bit grand," says the priest-in-charge, Stephen Hardy. "In Victorian times it had quite a makeover, including tiles by William Morris and an Edward Burne-Jones window. That's when the pieces came." He is talking about two large candlesticks covered in semi-precious stones, a 60cm (2ft) high altar cross, a church plate, a bookrest, five small vases and a small candlestick, all made of brass. They all disappeared just after Christmas. Churchwarden Gill Applin made the discovery while tidying up in the church. Hardy believes that by climbing up on to the organ, thieves were able to make their way over a screen into the vestry, where the brasses were kept.

"It was quite a shock," says Hardy. "As a young girl guide, Gill used to clean these things and now she's in her sixties. They're very much part of the family, you know." Three people were arrested in connection with the case, but the items have not been recovered.

Such stories are repeated up and down the country. St Michael with St Bartholomew Church in Great Lever, Bolton, lost brass crosses and silver chalices in a raid last year. More recently at the Catholic church of St Joseph in Sheringham, Norfolk, thieves took the bronze "corpus" of Christ from a crucifix above a grave.

In Lewisham, south London, a bronze memorial to soldiers who died in the first world war was taken from the porch of St Mary the Virgin. A couple were caught on CCTV wheeling it in a shopping trolley and convicted of theft but the memorial is still missing.

"We've got no intention of locking the church here in Bishopsbourne," says a defiant Hardy. "We don't want to go down that sort of route. Churches are spaces that people do like to go into whether or not they're of great Christian faith. People like the quiet of a church, as a place to pray and reflect.

"Obviously we'd want to take measures to make access to the vestry even harder. But we'll manage. The other week a parishioner brought in two candlesticks she had at home to use on the altar and we put up a wooden cross."

Curbs on scrap metal dealers to be announced to stop theft epidemic

Scrap dealers are to be banned from accepting cash payments to stop the "epidemic" of metal thefts, ministers will announce this week.

Scrap metal dealers 'fuelling theft through no-questions asked' industry
Metal theft is estimated to cost the economy £770 million every year as thieves target the transport system, public buildings such as schools and hospitals, and places of worship Photo: ALAMY

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, will ban cash transactions and and introduce unlimited fines for people caught trading stolen scrap metal.

Ministers have agreed to act after public outrage at the activities of criminals who have pillaged churches, stripped war memorials, stolen valuable sculptures, plunged villages into darkness and wrought havoc on the rail industry.

Metal theft is estimated to cost the country £1 billion a year, with more than 1,000 offences taking place every week.

The ban on cash trading will be implemented by a new clause in the Legal Aid Bill, which is currently before MPs.

In addition the Government is also ready to scrap the £1,000 limit on fines for trading stolen scrap metal. Both measures are expected to come into force by April.

The announcement falls short, however, of proposals by Graham Jones, the Labour MP for Hyndburn, who called for anyone selling scrap metal to provide proof of identity.

Last week the Government refused to sign up to a Private Members Bill drawn up by Mr Jones, leading to accusations that the Government was dragging its feet on the issue.

There had also been some resistance to curbs within Whitehall with the Department for Business understood to be wary about adding to “the burden of red tape”.

However such doubts have now been settled much to the relief of those who have suffered worst at the hands of the thieves.

“We have said for a long time that the single most effective step in combating this would be to ending or at least regulating cash trading in scrap,” said a Church of England spokesman.

“If the criminal justice system could also have an effective deterrent, then that would also be something that we welcome.’

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “Passengers and businesses that rely on the railway will be delighted at any tough measures to tackle cable theft on the railway.

“We have long maintained that the most effective way to significantly reduce metal crime is to take away the illegal market and that more robust legislation and police powers are needed to achieve that.”

A spokesman for the Energy Networks Association, which suffers 20 attacks a day, called for stronger measures.

“Were a cashless system to be introduced it would deal a significant blow to criminals disposing of their illegal scrap and unlimited fines would certainly add a further deterrent.

“However, we need a full package of measures and we urge Government to propose additional steps to protect our infrastructure and heritage as part of the next Parliament.”

A spokesman for the British Metals Recycling Association endorsed the principle of unlimited fines.

“We believe fines should reflect the damage caused by the theft not just the value of the metal which has been stolen”

But the prospect of banning cash trading still caused the Association concerns. “We are not against banning cash trading, but at the moment all that will happen is that a lot of the trade will just go to unlicensed yards, which are outside the system.

“Let’s get those illegal yards shut down first and then we can look at cashless trading.”