Saturday, July 01, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Brighton Antiques Knocker Boy Lee Collins Gets Four Years Jailtime. July 2017 Art Crime Round Up

Brighton Antiques Knocker Boy Lee Collins appeared at Portsmouth Crown Court on June 23rd 2017 where he was convicted on two counts. He received two years six months for the first count and eighteen months for the second count. A total of four years in prison.
Subsequently, Lee Collins aka Lee Kendall appeared at Aylesbury Crown Court and after a trial was convicted and sentenced on June 29th 2017 to a further eighteen months in prison. Not sure if this means he will serve the whole five years six months for the three convictions or the last sentence will be concurrent?

Update: JAILED: Man, Lee Collins, posing as tradesman stole from elderly couple's home in Great Missenden

A man who posed as a tradesman to steal from an elderly couple’s home in Great Missenden has been jailed for 18 months.
In July last year 50-year-old Lee Collins, of The Heights in Brighton, visited the couple's home claiming to work for ‘Clarences of Sussex’ – and asked to buy antiques.
While the victims were distracted, Collins, who is also known as Lee Kendall, stole an Omega watch from the house.
He was later stopped by police in High Wycombe and a number of items were seized from his vehicle.
Collins was charged on October 25 last year and appeared at Aylesbury Crown Court on Thursday, June 29 where he was sentenced.
Investigating officer PC Chris Jamieson, from Taplow Police Station, said: "This case related to a burglary targeted at vulnerable members of the community. I am pleased that Collins has been convicted and will be serving time in prison.
"Thames Valley Police will strive to work to bring offenders to justice in this way, especially for offences such as this which cause a lot of concern and impact to the public.
"We will ensure justice is brought to those attempting to target vulnerable members of our communities."

 Although the companies website, twitter and fb pages are still active, a letter was served today, July 4th 2017,to strike this company in two months and any assets or money will be paid to the crown.

Lee Collins relation pleads guilty to distrction buglary

Police release transcript made between pensioner and man who was later sentenced for distraction burglary

Jack Collins has been sentenced for carrying out a distraction burglary at an elderly woman’s home in Gerrards Cross
This is the transcript of a conversation between a pensioner and a man who was sentenced for a distraction burglary at her home.
Thames Valley Police have released the CCTV recording of the elderly woman's conversation with Jack Collins, 21, of The Heights, Brighton, made on the doorstep of the 88-year-old's Gerrards Cross home.
Collins purported to be a clock repair man and using the trading name "Clarences of Sussex" paid a visit to the victim's address at 3pm on July 6 2016.
He asked to be let in to examine a clock at the property, stating that the victim had previously asked him to attend for repairs, but the victim has no memory of this.

The victim and witness were happy for this transcript to be released:
Jack Collins (JC) – “Good afternoon, sorry to trouble you, it’s about the brochure I dropped in last week, did you have a chance to read the brochure at all?”
Victim (V) – “What was it about?”
(JC) – “We’ve found out some good news about your clock for you, do you remember? We came a while back, and I just needed to have another quick look, that’s all.”
(V) opens the door – “If it’s anywhere it’ll be… look… do you see it?”
(JC) “Yes, it’s the wall clock, the grandmother”
(V) – “The big one?”
(JC) – “Yes! Do you remember we looked at it a while ago now?”
(V) – “I don’t remember”
(JC) – “Um, is it all right to have a quick look?” (after a 10 second gap in the CCTV) “…to get it repaired for you”
(V) – “I don’t particularly want it repaired”
(JC) – “No, that’s fine. I’ll leave that. Um do you remember the beads that you showed me upstairs? Because I found out about them for you and they’re going to be worth several hundred pounds. Is it alright to have another look?
(V) – “Yes”
(JC) – “Come on then”
JC goes up the stairs and is out of sight. The victim attempts to follow, but is slow climbing the stairs on her own.
Shortly after Collins goes upstairs a neighbour of the victim arrives, asking Collins who he is and for his business card. Collins agrees to go out to his car and collect the card for the neighbour, however he does not return to the property.
It is not believed that Collins actually took anything from the property.

He pleaded guilty at Amersham Crown Court on Wednesday May 17 and was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment (suspended for 2 years), 250 hours unpaid work and £500 compensation.
Investigating officer PC Chris Jamieson, from Taplow Police Station, said: “I am grateful for the hard work undertaken to convict the offender and protect the vulnerable victim.
"I also particularly commend the brave neighbour who the challenged the offender during the burglary, causing him to flee.
“I hope this promotes a message that we will robustly investigate these kinds of offences and ensure justice is brought to those attempting to target vulnerable members of our communities.
“This is a particularly disturbing case of an offender targeting an elderly victim and taking advantage of her vulnerabilities.
"We would also advise all elderly or vulnerable residents to be on their guard when people call at their door, even if they are expecting someone – care should still be taken.”
 Advice for how to deal with callers is available here

The Cézanne Stolen In The Perfect Art Heist For a New Millennium

As the world celebrated the dawn of a new millennium in 2000, a thief broke into Oxford's Ashmolean Museum and stole a Cézanne painting. It, and the thief, have never been found

As the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2000, crowds around the world went wild. It was not only a new year, worthy of all the celebration that entails, but also a new millennium, one that many believed would start in 'Y2K' disaster.
But the crisis was averted, the clocks and computers rolled back to zero with nary a hiccup, and the revelry began in full force in towns like Oxford, England.
While many had been preparing for the evening by stocking up on canned goods and bottled water (just in case), one person in the U.K. had a different idea of preparation.
Sometime after 1 a.m. on New Year’s Day, while fireworks were blasting and revelers carousing in the surrounding streets—a thief successfully carried out his plan to steal Paul Cézanne’s 'View of Auvers-sur-Oise' from the University of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum.
The history of art theft is littered with amateurs who have royally bungled their ill-considered attempts at a get-rich-quick scheme (hint: stealing art is complicated and rarely lucrative), and heists that are successful are often attributed to woefully inadequate security.
But neither of these plot lines applied to the Cézanne-napping. The thief who broke into the Ashmolean on New Year’s Eve carried out a professional, highly planned heist that many have likened to that of The Thomas Crown Affair.
The plan was meticulously executed. Using the construction scaffolding at nearby Oxford University Library, the thief climbed onto the roof and then hopped across several buildings to get to the museum.
The thief then broke through a skylight, lowered a rope into the gallery below, and shimmied their way down.
The real evil genius of the plan was in their next move. As the thief entered the gallery, they activated a smoke canister and, using a fan, spread a fog that obscured the view of the security cameras—one of the reasons the thief has never been identified—and set off the fire alarm.
While most would consider tripping an alarm in the middle of a crime a deal-breaker, in this case, it bought the thief an extra couple of minutes. While security guards waited for the fire department to arrive, the thief was able to grab the Cézanne from a nearby gallery, shimmy back up the rope, reverse their roof hopping, and disappear into the surrounding crowd.
The whole heist took less than ten minutes and, by the time the authorities had cleared the building and determined that the only emergency was the empty space where the Cézanne had once hung, the thief was gone without a trace.
“'It is the only Cézanne we have in the Ashmolean, and it is very important as an example of late 19th-century painting,” Dr. Christopher Brown, then-director of the Ashmolean, told the Guardian. “This is not just a criminal act but a very selfish act.”'View of Auvers-sur-Oise' was painted by the artist sometime between 1879 and 1882, and it represents a key step in Cézanne’s career as he transitioned from his early, darker work to the Post-Impressionist style that he would become known for. Cézanne may now be considered one of the most important artists of the 19th century, paving the way for Modernism and gaining followers of the likes of Matisse, Picasso, and Kandinsky, but he was ignored and even rejected for most of his career (his first solo show wasn’t until the age of 56).
While he was struggling in his early 30’s to gain a toehold in the artistic community, the artist decided to move his family to Auvers-sur-Oise in France at the suggestion of his dear friend and fellow painter Camille Pissarro.
“Our Cézanne gives us hope, and I’ve seen some paintings; I have at home one of remarkable vigor and power,” Pissarro wrote in a letter to Antoine Guillemet in early 1872. “If, as I hope, he remains for awhile in Auvers, where he’s going to live, he’ll astonish a lot of artists who were too quick to condemn him.”
He would astonish artists, although their condemnation lasted for several more decades, but the year and a half that Cézanne spent in the small town to the northwest of Paris would continue to influence him for a long time.
“Cézanne mightn't have been Cézanne without [Pissarro],” Jerry Saltz wrote in a 2005 review of an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art called “Cézanne and Pissarro: Pioneering Modern Painting.” “It was Pissarro who pulled Cézanne toward nature, away from expressionist painting, the palette knife excesses of Courbet, and what art historian Roger Fry called ‘artistic madness.’”
Well after he left town in early 1874, Cézanne would continue to paint landscapes inspired by Auvers-sur-Oise. One of these was the painting that ended up in the Ashmolean collection.
As the smoke cleared in the early morning hours of the new Millennium, detectives on the scene started looking at the case as a “stolen-to-order” job. The Cézanne was in the very same gallery as a van Gogh, a Picasso, a Manet, and a Monet, but none of the other paintings were touched; the culprit clearly had a mission when they broke through the skylight.
But in an interview he gave to NPR several days after the theft, Dr. Brown, the museum’s director, said that he wasn’t sure that was the case. He told NPR's Liane Hansen that earlier in December, a Cézanne had sold at an auction in London for £18 million. He thought the man responsible had learned about the sale and saw an opportunity to cash in.
Beyond being a devastating loss for the museum, the theft was particularly hurtful to Brown because of the path it took to get to Oxford.
The Cézanne was part of a group of paintings donated to the museum by Richard and Sophie Walzer, who had come to the U.K. as German refugees fleeing Hitler during World War II.
“In giving this group of pictures to the Ashmolean, they were thanking the British people for taking them in at this terrible time, and particularly the people of Oxford,” Brown told NPR. “So there is a real sentimental link between this picture and Oxford. And it is profoundly upsetting to me, as it is to many of us here, that that link has been broken by this criminal act.”
As the confetti settled from the New Year’s celebrations and the world got back to their lives, word of the theft began to hit papers around the globe. Worth a reported $4.8 million, 'View of Auvers-sur-Oise' was one of the most significant art heists in recent decades, and that distinction earned it a not-so-prized spot on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Art Crimes list, where it remains today.
But despite the publicity, no break has come in the case of the missing Cézanne and the painting’s whereabouts remain just as hidden as the identity of the person who took it in the first place.
But wherever the perpetrator is—whether enjoying the spoils of their made-for-hire job or sneaking glances at the famous painting that is not so easy to sell—the joke may be on them.
In February 2016, new guidelines were passed in the U.K. that demand a more severe punishment for offenses deemed “heritage crimes,” a designation for which the New Year’s Eve theft more than qualifies. Had the thief been discovered before that date, they would have faced a less severe sentence.
If the thief is ever caught they may find themselves wishing that, on that momentous Millennium night, they too had had no greater plans than to enjoy a raucous display of fireworks just like everyone else.
Art Hostage Comments:
Please listen to this radio show featuring Charlie Hill explaining how he was offered the Cezanne back for 20,000 euros, but the museum and police refused to engage with him.

Artful Dodger

Irish Monet vandal Andrew Shannon is back to his old tricks as he’s spotted on prowl at ANOTHER art gallery in England

Our pictures also show him and his older cohort mingling with other visitors as they appear to identify items for theft
IRELAND’S most notorious art thief and convicted masterpiece vandal is refusing to give up his place in Rogues’ Gallery.
Our exclusive CCTV stills show Andrew Shannon on the prowl inside Kiplin Hall in North Yorkshire, England, with another man and a teenage lad.

Shannon looks up at the camera
Shannon looks up at the camera
In the first snap, the 51-year-old is captured looking directly at a security camera in the 16th century Jacobean house, near Northallerton.
Our pictures also show him and his older cohort mingling with other visitors as they appear to identify items for theft.
And in another, the trio are seen walking down the stairs after entering the historic property’s private bedrooms.
Although he was spotted acting suspiciously by the stately home’s guides, staff were unable to prevent the theft of five antique books.
And cops were left frustrated in their attempts to charge the trio with theft after they failed to recover any of the stolen tomes.

Shannon walks around the gallery
Shannon walks around the gallery
Shannon, who provided legal advice to lags while inside Dublin’s Cloverhill Prison, swooped on the property in April 2016 after his early release from a six-year sentence for damaging a €10million painting in Dublin in 2012.
Our exclusive CCTV grabs show Shannon in the National Gallery of Ireland at the moment he lunged at the Monet masterpiece.
The thief — who has 48 previous convictions — is pictured mingling with visitors and admiring other works of art.
But onlookers were left stunned after he jumped at the artwork before punching a hole through the canvas.
The damaged painting — the Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sail Boat — is now back on display after it was repaired.
Passing sentence in December 2014, Mr Justice Martin Nolan said the Monet attack was a “peculiar crime”, adding the way the damage had been caused was “abnormal”.
He suspended the final 15 months of Shannon’s six-year term on condition he does not enter art ­galleries.

Shannon punches a hole in Monet painting as stunned onlookers stand watching in horror
Shannon punches a hole in Monet painting as stunned onlookers stand watching in horror
Today’s special investigation by the Irish Sun into one of Europe’s most prolific art and antique thieves reveals how he’s now back behind bars.
He is serving a sentence at HM Prison Preston after he was lifted by cops there in April of this year.
He was wanted by detectives in the UK after he failed to return to complete a theft sentence there after he previously received temporary release.
The thief — who was again released from prison in October over a one-year sentence for possessing 57 stolen antique books taken from Carton House, Co Kildare — was arrested after his Ford Focus was identified by the Automatic Numberplate Recognition System.
We understand UK cops swooped after they received a tip-off from the Gardai that he was travelling to England.
Shannon, who also failed in his appeal to have his conviction for the Monet attack overturned after pleading his innocence, will now spend the next 15 months in the UK slammer.
A source said: “It’s great news for the art world to have this man back behind bars again.
“Even when he received temporary release he came back to Ireland to target more stately homes.
“He will steal anything he gets his hands on and just doesn’t want other people enjoying fine art or antiques. He even stole a wedding photographer’s album in Co Monaghan even though it was worth nothing. He just did it for badness.”

The damaged Claude Monet painting
Collins Courts
The damaged Claude Monet painting
Although he’s now back behind bars, owners of vintage estates across England, Scotland and Wales will be on high alert when he’s released next year.
One owner of a UK pad told us: “Shannon has been one of our most prolific offenders. He’s a suspect in stealing items from five homes in the last year.
“He’s not even stealing anything substantial.
“On one of his visits he’s suspected of stealing an ashtray and little figures that don’t have any monetary value.
“The whole thing seems to be a dare to him and it looks as if he’s taunting us because he’s looking directly at the camera in one of the images.
“He seldom leaves empty-handed and doesn’t work alone. It looks as if he’s now passing on his experience to a younger criminal.
“The problems for us start when he comes over here and we know he’s been operating here for a very long time.”

It took 18 months to repair the damage Shannon caused to the painting
It took 18 months to repair the damage Shannon caused to the painting
The investigation into Shannon’s exploits in Ireland was run by Sergeant Eugene McCarthy and his team, including Detective Garda David Ganly, under the command of Superintendent Joe Gannon.
Supt Gannon welcomed Shannon’s jail sentence in England and said: “It’s good to see there is no safe refuge for people who engage in criminality. This individual targets paintings and antiquities for some ulterior motive known only to himself.
“Thankfully, the law has finally caught up and dealt with him.
“A very thorough and diligent investigation into this man was conducted by the investigating officers. He poses a serious threat to the world of art and antiquities.
“He attempted to deny the general public the pleasure of preserving and viewing the legacy of history.”
We can also reveal that during a search of his home last year, officers also recovered thousands of toothbrushes and Star Wars toys.
Our latest revelations come after we revealed exclusive images from inside Shannon’s secret art gallery at his home.
A €100,000 haul — including 43 paintings and ten rare books — was found at the thief’s home after it was raided.

Shannon walking down stairs in gallery
Shannon and two associates walk down stairs in gallery
We showed how every wall in the tiny two-bedroom duplex in Ongar, west Dublin, was peppered with fine art. The pictures also illustrated how Shannon dished out a fortune on revamping the pad. His decorations included installing a TV inside the property’s bathroom.
Officers also found an antique chiropodist kit, three medals and a Georgian door lock — with the most expensive item a €10,000 Wooded River Landscape with Peasants by Irish-based artist William Ashford.
A source added: “Shannon’s property was like something from the Titanic or Gone With The Wind — every wall was completely covered. On the one hand you have him destroying historic works of art and on the other admiring them privately at his home.
“Every room had a painting hanging and he was clearly very proud of his collection. It was like a professional art gallery.
“The house didn’t look like much on the outside but a lot of money went into it.
“Shannon was unemployed and yet he still had paintings in every corner of his house.”
Since the recovery of the items from Shannon’s pad, over €30,000 worth of artworks and antiques have been returned to their owners.
They include three paintings returned to the Culloden Hotel in Northern Ireland, books to Maynooth University and a painting to the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin.
One of the items found belonged to Slane Castle owner Lord Henry Mountcharles.
Gardai believe the €4,000 item was swiped from Beau Parc House in Navan, Co Meath, in 1986. But others who have yet to come forward and collect their treasures.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Arthur Brand Chasing Fake Gardner Art Sold By Michel Van Rijn To Irish Criminals InThe Netherlands/Holland

Art Hostage Comments:
Arthur Brand, claims in the article on Bloomberg, below he is negociating with former IRA members to recover the Gardner art.
These leads are Irish drug dealers who work out of the Netherland.
Furthermore, Arthur Brand claims a Dutch criminal had photo's of the Gardner art back in the 1990's and was trying to sell them in Europe. This criminal was Michel Van Rijn and he sold them to Irish criminals, but sadly they were copies/fakes and Michel Van Rijn scammed the buyers, who could not get them authenticated for obvious reasons.
These fake Gardner artworks have been passed through many hands over the years and if they are ever recovered it will become clear very quickly they are good quality fakes. Therefore no reward would ever be paid out and the reason given will be because they are copies, true or false.
However, this is not to say some of the original Gardner artworks might be held by Irish people, but this latest attempt by Arthur Brand is chasing the fake Gardner art sold by Michel Van Rijn.

Cracking the Biggest Art Heist in History

For nearly three decades, detectives have sought to solve the theft of $500 million of artwork from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. They think the end is near. 
It’s still regarded as the greatest unsolved art heist of all time: $500 million of art—including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, and Manet—plucked from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston on March 18, 1990, by two men posing as police.
The museum had offered a $5 million reward for the return of all 13 pieces in good condition. Last month, the bounty was suddenly and unexpectedly doubled to $10 million.
For such a long-unsolved case, the investigation is surprisingly active into the disappearance of the artworks, which include paintings, a Chinese vase and a 19th century finial of an eagle. Anthony Amore, the museum’s director of security, says he works on the case every day and is in “almost constant contact” with FBI investigators. Tipsters still call all the time, with leads that range from the vaguely interesting to the downright bizarre. Among them: a psychic who offered to contact the late Mrs. Gardner’s spirit, and a few self-styled sleuths who reckon the paintings can be found with metal dowsing rods.
Most of those go nowhere. Whether the works will ever be recovered, or if they still exist at all, is one of the great questions that has divided the art world.
“Those paintings are gone,” said Erin Thompson, professor of art crime at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “Either because they were destroyed immediately after they were stolen, or because they’ve already been beaten up so badly by being moved around in the back of cars.”
But there is one outside detective respected by Amore—Arthur Brand, a Dutch private investigator—who believes not only are the artworks still intact, but also that he can bring them home. This year.
“It’s almost certain that the pieces still exist,” Brand told me. “We are following two leads that both go to the Netherlands, and we are now negotiating with certain people.”
Brand, 47, has become one of the world’s leading experts in international art crimes. A British newspaper once called him the “Indiana Jones of the art world” for his combination of crack negotiating skills and uncanny instincts for finding stolen art.
In the past few years, Brand has posed as the agent of a Texas oil millionaire to help Berlin police find two enormous bronze horses from the German Reichstag. He worked with Ukrainian militia members to secure the return of five stolen Dutch masters to the Westfries Museum in the Netherlands. He negotiated with two criminal gangs for the successful return of a Salvador Dali and a painting by Tamara de Lempicka, together valued at about $25 million, to the now-closed Scheringa Museum of Realist Art, also in the Netherlands.
Brand acts as something of a liaison between criminals and the police. Controversially, he’ll try to make deals that allow the culprits to go free, because he says his primary goal is saving the art from the trash heap.
“There are very few like him who understand the reality of this sort of crime,” Amore said.

René Allonge, the chief art investigator with the Berlin State Office of Criminal Investigation, said his team had been searching for Hitler’s bronze horses since 2013. He contacted Brand at the end of 2014, met him in 2015, and they conducted the investigation and searches jointly, “as far as it was legally possible.” Ultimately, Brand played a crucial role in the discovery of the bronze horses, as well as other populist bronzes from the Nazi era, he said. “He succeeded in penetrating a very closed scene of collectors of high-quality Nazi devotionalia, where we finally found the sculptures that we were searching for,” Allonge wrote in an email.
Brand’s reward in some of these high-profile cases is often the glory and nothing more. Scheringa had originally offered a €250,000 bounty ($280,000) for the Dali and Lempicka, but the museum had shut down by the time they were recovered. Brand was paid an hourly fee and had his expenses reimbursed, though he declined to say by whom. For finding Hitler’s horses, he got no cash at all, just a lot of free publicity, he says.
“He’s not the guy to charge you for every hour he works,” said Ad Geerdink, director of the Westfries Museum, for which Brand recovered five old-master paintings from a militia group in Ukraine. “He knew that we are a small organization with not many resources, so the fee was very, very friendly.”
The biggest bonus Brand’s ever received for solving a case was about €25,000, he says. He adds that he’s investigating the Gardner case for the glory. “It’s the Holy Grail in the art world,” he said.
It’s estimated that only 5 percent to 10 percent of stolen art is ever recovered, largely because the works are impossible to sell publicly.
“People will steal art first and then think about what to do with it second,” said Thompson, the art crime professor. “Often they’ll destroy the work of art to get rid of the evidence.”
Shortly after seven paintings by Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and others, valued in the tens of millions of dollars, were stolen from Rotterdam’s Kunsthal museum in 2013, they were burned by the mother of one of three Romanian thieves arrested and charged in the burglary. She confessed to investigators that she was scared after police began searching her village.
Alternatively, paintings are used as bargaining chips in criminal cases. That’s how Italian police recently located two stolen Van Goghs.
In 2002, thieves broke into the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam with a sledgehammer—just because they saw a weakness in the museum’s security, not because they knew what they were after. The opportunists sold the works for ‎€350,000 to alleged Italian mobster Raffaele Imperiale. (The art was said to be worth tens of millions—although it never came to market, so it’s impossible to know.)
In a seaside town near Naples, Imperiale stored the canvases in his mother’s kitchen cabinet for a dozen years until prosecutors closed in. In August, Imperiale disclosed their location in an attempt to improve his standing with the courts, his lawyers, Maurizio Frizzi and Giovanni Ricco, told me. Prosecutors subsequently reduced his sentence by about two years, they said.
But often, the thieves are only persuaded to let go of works if they think they’re going to sell them on the black market. This is where someone like Brand can come in. In 2014, he created a character to help solve the case of the missing Reichstag bronze horses. He pretended to be an agent for “Dr. Moss,” a fictional American collector who had gotten rich in the oil business, loosely based on the character J.R. Ewing from the TV show Dallas. He has also posed as the representative of princes and sheikhs, or even as a criminal himself. “Whatever works, works,” he said. He draws the line at wearing costumes.
Brand says he almost never deals with the original thieves. Stolen art tends to move through many hands. Sometimes, the ultimate recipient doesn’t know that what they have was stolen.
“In many cases, I have to deal with a person who has a problem: They’ve been screwed by another criminal group,” Brand said. “They can either pass art along to another criminal group, or they can burn it. That’s even worse. What they won’t do is take the work to the police and say, ‘We found these Van Goghs.’ Because the police will ask where they got them.”

That’s where Brand has an opportunity to become the middleman. He can promise the sellers they won’t get in trouble, then get assurances that the police won’t make arrests.
Brand’s style works particularly well for snaring amateur crooks, said Noah Charney, founder of the Association for Research Into Crimes Against Art. A lot of people who steal art assume there are collectors out there who buy on the black market, like characters in heist movies. In fact, almost none exist, he said.
“People have always collected art to show their erudition and to advertise their wealth,” he said. “If you buy something that you know or suspect was stolen, you can’t show it to anyone.”
Criminals don’t always know that. “They get desperate and then turn to someone like Arthur Brand,” someone they are willing to believe is the real deal, Charney said.
Six-foot-two, with a shock of blond hair and bright blue eyes, Brand could be played in the movie of his life by Liam Neeson or Ralph Fiennes. His sleuthing is an adjunct to his primary and less dramatic job—helping buyers who have been swindled, conned, or overcharged for art.
“About 70 percent of what I do is just in the office, visiting clients, visiting dealers, talking to people, and saying, ‘Give him his money back!’” he said. “The other 30 percent is walking around talking to criminals, talking to police, informants, and going undercover sometimes.”
Brand first became connected to the art world as a student, through collecting ancient Roman and Greek coins. “I found out that there were a lot of fakes out there, and I didn’t want to spend my hard-earned money buying fakes,” he said.
In 2002, Brand received the first of many tips, rumors, and leads about the Gardner case. He heard that back in 1991, people in Holland had photographs of the paintings in storage. By following up, he became convinced that the paintings were never sent to the Netherlands, but photographs were being circulated by people trying to sell the paintings to someone there.
Sometime around 2010, he heard that the works had ended up in the hands of former members of the Irish Republican Army. But he soon suffered a setback with the death of one of his top sources, a former IRA member.
Brand believes the original thieves were small-time burglars who sold the pieces to a criminal gang in the U.S. before they were killed in the early 1990s. At some point in the mid-1990s, he thinks, the works were shipped to Ireland by boat and ended up with top-ranking IRA commanders.
For the past 12 years, Amore and the FBI have worked around a theory that local gang members in the Boston area may have been involved. They are fairly certain that the two thieves who committed the crime died shortly afterwards, Amore said.
But Amore believes the works are still in the U.S. “Art that is stolen in America tends to stay in America,” he said. “I’d be happy to be proven wrong.”
The statute of limitations on the theft ran out in 1995, and the Office of the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts has considered offering immunity for information that leads to its return. The museum mostly cares about getting the works back, Amore said. That’s partly why they raised the reward.
“It was important for the museum to show its commitment,” he said. “We’re telling the public this is how serious we are.”
Brand says the higher reward may help speed things up. He isn’t convinced, though, that the criminals involved will trust the FBI to live up to the deal, despite his assurances.
“For me, it’s not about getting people arrested,” he said. “We’re not talking about murders here. If a big criminal has them or the Pope, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to get them back.”
Brand says this case could be cracked within months. He won’t elaborate, but if his leads are good, he’ll have to work fast.
Amore also says that he and the FBI may be close to solving the case, and they have leads that are “making the haystack smaller.” He, too, declined to share specifics. “We feel we’re on the right path,” he said.
The FBI is more measured. “The investigation has had many twists and turns, promising leads and dead ends,” said Kristen Setera, an agency spokeswoman in Boston. “It has included thousands of interviews and incalculable hours of effort. The FBI believes with high confidence that we have identified those responsible for the theft, even though we still don’t know where the art is currently located.”
Brand is confident he can find out.
“Somebody I’m talking to knows something,” he said. “These people are not idiots. They know that they can’t just hand them over and walk away with impunity. They think even if they’ve been offered immunity, the police will have some tricks up their sleeves. What I can do is I can provide them a way to return the works without ever having contact with the police. I can even promise them that they can get the reward.”
Would Brand really hand over $10 million?
“If I can be the one who can bring them to the museum,” he says, “give me a good glass of Guinness, and that’s reward enough.”
—With assistance from Hugo Miller.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Art Heist, Evidence Hidden In Plain Sight, Political Suppression

Boston police found Richard Abath handcuffed and duct-taped in the basement of the Gardner Museum after it was robbed in 1990.
Boston Police Department.
Boston police found Richard Abath handcuffed and duct-taped in the basement of the Gardner Museum after it was robbed in 1990.





Evidence in Gardner Museum thefts that might bear DNA is missing

Despite an exhaustive internal search, the FBI has been unable to find the missing evidence in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist.
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Despite an exhaustive internal search, the FBI has been unable to find the missing evidence in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist.

The trail had been cold for years when the FBI announced in 2010 that it had sent crime scene evidence from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to its lab for retesting, hoping advances in DNA analysis would identify the thieves who stole $500 million worth of masterpieces.
But behind the scenes, federal investigators searching for a break in the world’s largest art theft were stymied by another mystery. The duct tape and handcuffs that the thieves had used to restrain the museum’s two security guards — evidence that might, even 27 years after the crime, retain traces of DNA — had disappeared.
The FBI, which collected the crime scene evidence after the heist, lost the duct tape and handcuffs, according to three people familiar with the investigation. Despite an exhaustive internal search, the FBI has been unable to find the missing evidence, thwarting its plan to analyze it for potential traces of the thieves’ genetic material, according to those people, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the case.
It’s unclear when the items vanished — although two people said they have been missing for more than a decade — and whether they were thrown away or simply misfiled, the people said.
The lost evidence marks another setback in an ongoing investigation that has been plagued by the deaths of suspects, defiant mobsters, fruitless searches, and a litany of dashed hopes. None of the 13 stolen treasures, which include masterpieces by Vermeer and Rembrandt, have been recovered, and no one has been charged.
The FBI declined to comment on the missing evidence, citing the ongoing investigation, but defended its handling of the case. Harold H. Shaw, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office, said the bureau has devoted significant resources to the investigation, chased leads around the world, and remains committed to recovering the artwork.
“The investigation has had many twists and turns, promising leads and dead ends,” Shaw said. “It has included thousands of interviews and incalculable hours of effort.”
The FBI completed DNA analysis of some museum evidence in 2010, according to Kristen Setera, an FBI spokeswoman. She declined to say what items were tested or what, if anything, the tests showed.
The heist remains one of Boston’s greatest mysteries. Promising leads have led nowhere, leaving investigators at a crossroads. Most notably, a seven-year effort to pressure a Connecticut mobster for information has come up empty.
Robert Gentile, 80, faces sentencing in August on gun charges but could walk free if he cooperated with federal authorities, his lawyer said. Despite the enticement, and a hefty reward, Gentile denies knowing anything about the stolen artwork.
Finding the treasures may require a new approach, according to several former law enforcement officials who worked on the case. They suggested that investigators should restart the investigation from scratch and review the evidence in a contemporary light.
Carmen Ortiz, who recently stepped down as US attorney for Massachusetts, said authorities should shift their strategy, perhaps to include appeals on social media, and expand the investigative team.
“Get around the table with some fresh eyes, in addition to those who know this case very well, to give it a new look,” Ortiz said. Ortiz’s successor, Acting US Attorney William Weinreb, said the investigation remains a top priority.
A former assistant US attorney, Robert Fisher, who oversaw the Gardner investigation from 2010 to 2016, said investigators should “go back to square one” and study the crime as if it just happened, analyzing each piece of evidence with the latest DNA, fingerprint, and video technology.
“What if it happened last night, what would we do this morning to try to crack this case?” said Fisher, an attorney at Nixon Peabody.
Told that the Globe had learned the duct tape and handcuffs left behind by the thieves were now missing, Fisher said he hoped they would be found.
“Frankly, it could be enormously helpful,” Fisher said of the missing items. “I think present-day forensic analysis of evidence like that could lead to a break in the case.”
However, he said the tape may yield no viable DNA, depending on its condition.
Anthony Amore, the museum’s security director, said investigators are pursuing a number of new leads following last month’s announcement that the reward for information leading to the recovery of the artwork had doubled to $10 million until year’s end. Dozens of tips were received, he said.
“I operate in the realm of hope,” said Amore, who has worked with the FBI and US attorney’s office on the investigation for nearly 12 years. “We are never going to stop looking for these paintings.”
The brazen heist — the largest property crime in US history — occurred in the early morning hours of March 18, 1990. Two thieves disguised as police officers claimed to be investigating a disturbance when they showed up at the museum’s side door on Palace Road in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood. They were buzzed inside by a 23-year-old security guard, who, by his own admission, has never been eliminated as a suspect.
The thieves wrapped duct tape around the hands, eyes, and mouths of the two guards on duty, then left them handcuffed in the museum’s basement as they spent 81 minutes slashing and pulling masterpieces from their frames.
In the days after the robbery, FBI and Boston police crime scene analysts scoured the museum for clues. They lifted partial fingerprints from the empty frames but found no matches in the FBI database.
At the time, DNA evidence was in its infancy. But scientific advances have since opened new doors for investigators, cracking unsolved cases across the country.
DNA experts said it’s possible the thieves’ DNA couldbe pulled from the duct tape, although the chances are slim. Success hinges on a number of variables, such as how the evidence was preserved and how many people handled it while freeing the guards and storing it.
“Certainly people have retrieved DNA from samples that old, but how much you can get is the big question,” said Robin Cotton, director of the Biomedical Forensic Sciences Program at the Boston University School of Medicine.
Analysts would also need DNA samples from the police officers who removed the tape to distinguish their DNA from the thieves, Cotton said.
Tom Evans, scientific director of the DNA Enzymes Division at New England Biolabs, an Ipswich firm that conducts DNA testing, said technology has come so far that it may take only a single cell to identify someone through DNA analysis. But DNA breaks down over time, especially in hot or humid conditions.
“Twenty-seven years later, it might work and it might fail,” Evans said.
The statute of limitations on the theft expired years ago, but authorities could still bring criminal charges for hiding or transporting the stolen artwork. The US attorney’s office has offered immunity in exchange for the return of the paintings.
Four years ago, the FBI announced it was confident it had identified the thieves — local criminals who have since died — and had determined that the stolen artwork traveled through organized crime circles from Boston to Connecticut to Philadelphia, where the trail went cold around 2003.
In 2010, the FBI began focusing on Gentile after the widow of another person of interest in the theft, Robert Guarente, told agents that her late husband had given two of the stolen paintings to Gentile before he died in 2004.
Federal authorities allege that Gentile offered to sell some of the stolen paintings to an undercover FBI agent in 2015 for $500,000 apiece. They remain convinced that he is holding back what he knows.
However, Gentile’s lawyer, A. Ryan McGuigan, said his client insists he has nothing to offer investigators and recently told him, “They could make the reward $100 million and it wouldn’t change anything because there ain’t no paintings.”
Another person who has come under renewed scrutiny in recent years is Richard Abath, the guard who opened the door for the thieves. A Berklee College of Music dropout who played in a rock ’n’ roll band while working at the museum, he has steadfastly maintained that he played no role in the heist.
Authorities have said that motion sensors that recorded the thieves’ steps as they moved through the museum indicate they never entered the first-floor gallery where Manet’s “Chez Tortoni” was stolen. Only Abath’s steps, as he made his rounds before the thieves arrived, were picked up there, they have said.
Steve Keller, a security consultant hired by the museum, said he tested the motion sensors after the theft and determined they were reliable. He said he entered and left the room several times where the Manet had been stolen, even crawling on his hands and knees in an effort to avoid detection. Each time the sensors detected his presence.
Abath declined to comment.
Former US attorney Brian T. Kelly, who previously oversaw efforts to recover the Gardner artwork, said he remains hopeful the masterpieces will be recovered.
“All it takes is a new lead that leads in a new direction and a lucky break or two,” Kelly said.
Shelley Murphy can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph. Stephen Kurkjian can be reached at
Art Hostage Comments:
 So many false leads, controlled oposition etc.
The FBI insist any Gardner art recovery is done on their terms and includes arrests/indictments etc.
The Gardner Museum has also been bullied into towing the line therefore any reward includes conditions that allows refusal of reward payment, for example the insistance on all the art work being recovered in "Good condition" before any reward would be paid out.

The museum’s trustees also felt they were being kept in the dark about the status of the investigation. Trustee Francis W. Hatch, Jr. recalled one meeting held ostensibly to gain a briefing from the agent and supervisor on the case. “They wouldn’t tell us anything about what they thought of the robbery
or who they considered suspects,” Hatch recalls. “It was
very embarrassing to all of us.”

"Hatch convinced the trustees that the museum needed to hire a fi rm to investigate, and stay in touch with the FBI on its probe. IGI, a private investigative firm based in Washington begun by Terry Lenzner, who had cut his teeth as a lawyer for the Senate Watergate Committee, was put on retainer, and the executive assigned to the case was Larry Potts, a former top
deputy in the FBI. Fearful that their authority was being undercut, the FBI’s
supervisors in Boston complained to US attorney Wayne Budd, who fired off a memo warning the museum that it faced prosecution if it withheld information relevant to the investigation. Hatch responded, saying in his letter that he
was “shocked and saddened” by Budd’s attempt to “intimidate” the museum and that it cast “a pall over future cooperative efforts.” From Master Thieves by Stephen Kurkjian
Wow! It's almost as if one of the thieves was untouchable, like because he was the star witness testifying in a German court in absentia against the ringleader of the longest running spy ring in American history, Clyde Lee Conrad, and was also implicating himself and two other spies he himself had recruited, at that time, like Boston area native Rod Ramsay, or somebody like that.

Climbing the Charts in March of 1990

"U Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer
Ramsay's college roommate at Charles River Park in Boston 1980-1981 was Darryl Nitke. Nitke had been roommates at Eton College with Muhammad Khashoggi, they remained friends and Nitke's brother in law and business associate Bedros Bedrossian was formerly business partners with with Muhammad's sister, Nabila Khashoggi in the mid-80's.

Nitke was a guest on the Khashoggi yacht for a cruise in 1982.

Adnan Khahsoggi's jury trial for among other things museum fine art theft began two days after the Gardner Heist

The Gardner Museum doubled the reward right before Khahsoggi died after a long illness on June 6, 2017. #LOCALTOUGHS

Interesting that the announcement for doubling the reward to ten million came out 5/23/17 as Adnan Khahsoggi was dying of Parkinsons Disease. He died 6/6/17.

Khahsoggi went on trial in New York City 2 days after the Gardner Heist for among other fine art theft.

He had a very elaborate network set up for stolen fine art transit.

"In addition, more than thirty paintings, valued at $200 million, that Imelda Marcos had allegedly purloined from the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, including works by Rubens, El Greco, Picasso, and Degas, were being stored by Khashoggi for the Marcoses, but it turned out that the pictures had been sold to Khashoggi as part of a cover-up. The art treasures were first hidden on his yacht and then moved to his penthouse in Cannes. The penthouse was raided by the French police in a search for the pictures in April 1987, but it is believed that Khashoggi had been tipped off. He turned over nine of the paintings to the police, claiming to have sold the others to a Panamanian company, but investigators believe that he sold the pictures back to himself. The rest of the loot is thought to be in Athens. If he is found guilty, such charges could get him up to ten years in an American slammer."

Some of the Gardner art may have reached the Middle East, making it much harder to recover.
Some of the Gardner art may be in terrible condition preventing any recovery because any reward would be negated by this, see Gardner museums conditions of recovery in "Good condition"

The Gardner case has been a political tug of war, with all sides refusing to give an inch.
Food for thought:
If they believe the thieves are deceased why did they only just recently stipulate that the thieves are not eligible for the reward?

From this article: "Plagued by the deaths of suspects, defiant mobsters."

Beat that local toughs theory into the ground Boston Globe. Last month the FBI said the know who the guy in the video is, but they're not saying if he was there for a legitimate reason or not. So obviously he wsa there for an illegitimate reason. And he most certainly is not a local tough so the whole local tough or any kind of mafia type theory is thoroughly discredited.

Abath has no known associations with local toughs and this guy talking to ABath is not a local tough or any kind of mafia type. Kurkjian reported in November of 2015 that four security guards said it was retired Lt. Colonel and Gardner Security supervisor Larry O'Brian, which is ridiculous, but it points to the fact that by his haircut, clothing, and comportment, this was a guy who could be mistaken for a security supervisor. Could Donati, or DiMuzio, or Reissfelder, be mistaken for a security supervisor by security guards on a surveillance video? I don't think so.

There has never been a scintilla of evidence supporting that theory. The whole theory was just a full employment for program FBI agents and their friends in journalism. And the dead suspects were just convenient props who would not be able to stand up for themselves, be publicly vetted or file a lawsuit.

From the New York Times in March of 2015 by Tom Mashberg:

"But on his PowerPoint, Mr. Kelly showed me that Mr. Reissfelder and Mr. DiMuzio closely resembled police sketches of the two men who had entered the museum.

Notice that Mashberg doesn't say they look like the police sketches. Nor does Kelly get quoted saying that. How absurd? It's like trying to translate the Soviet house organ Pravda into Russian.

In the Globe's article about the Powerpoint 3/17/15, a couple of weeks later, Shelley Murphy, evidently couldn't bring herself to mention Leonard DiMuzio by name. Can you blame her? DiMuzio, the victim of an unsolved homicide, was an honorably discharged Marine Corp corporal, and a Viet Nam vet. He does NOT resemble the police sketch. The New York Times described him as a "skillful burglar" which probably means they had not caught him yet.

Reissfelder, a bad check writer, who liked to talk like a tough guy spent 16 years in prison for a robbery/murder he did not commit and was exonerated. After he got out in 1982, he slept with the lights on.

But get ready for the real "CATCH" from this article by Murphy about Reissfelder

"The catch: Reissfelder was 50 at the time of the heist, and the guards estimated one thief was in his late 20s to early 30s and the other was in his 30s. However, Kelly said he doesn’t believe the age estimates were reliable."

So Kelly says he thinks that two guys in their twenties one a 27 year old with a Master's Degree from the New England Conservatory can't differentiate between someone in their 30's and a 51 year old drug addict who had spent half of his adult life in Walpole State Prison.

Link to original story from 3/17/15

And Robert Gentile is the only "defiant" mobster. He says he didn't do it. Stephen Kurkjian says he wasn't involved. Kurkjian's name is on this article. How is Gentile's defiance any kind of "plague?"

The I.T. Revolution did not end yesterday morning and it is not ending tomorrow morning. Get real. The paintings may or may not come back but the truth about who did it is coming out. It was not local toughs.
The Boston FBI conducted the "investigation" the way they were told from higher up, in Washington from the beginning. It's time for Washington to leave Boston alone on this now.

“The place is so wonderful now that we tend to forget what a horrendous thing it was to have happened,” [back then Governor Michael] Dukakis recalled recently. “The wearing of police uniforms always bothered me, and then the SEEMING difficulty of being able to identify them.”

Hawley too, he said, has shared with him and his wife, Kitty, a very close friend, her frustration that the FBI has been unable to recover any of the stolen pieces. “She’s frustrated, HIGHLY SKEPTICAL about a lot of the stuff,”
he said. “She’s gotten tired with everything. Enough already.” from Master Thieves by Stepehn Kurkjian

Dear Washington: Enough already!!!
This was not made public until 2013:

"We also were threatened by criminals who WANTED attention from the FBI Nobody knew really what kind of a cauldron we were in." Anne Hawley 12/4/13

What kind of criminals WANT attention from the FBI?

I don't know what kind of cauldron we're in, but from the smell of it, I think I know what it is we're sharing it with.
Who cares? I mean it is bad, but they already know who did it. This seems like a diversionary, gaslighting, in-emergency-break-glass, non-story designed to regain control of the narrative by pumping up pointless data with media steroids and pumping it out into the information stream on this.

Here is some Real News:

Last week CNN was brought to heel over a story written by art historian and art theft EXPERT Noah Charney.

CNN was somehow compelled or persuaded to re-write an article about the Gardner Heist reward being doubled to ten million written by Charney. They didn't acknowledge any errors, but they did put in this disclaimer:

"Editor's note: An earlier version of this story contained unsupported details regarding the night of the heist and subsequent investigations, which have now been removed. Ever see anything like that before?"

You can see Charney on American Greed Season Two Episode Nine "Unsolved: $300 Million Art Heist / Preying On Faith" on Hulu matter of factly contradicting the FBI's Geoff Kelly who appears on the same episode to discuss the Gardner Heist,p5,d0

Then on Friday Emily Rooney smeared Charney at the end of the show, describing this established art theft expert incompletely as an art novelist, and one who is indifferent to facts, and whose original story had "ten egregious errors." But Rooney has not said what any of the errors were and CNN is not doing a correction. So all we have for egregious errors in the public domain is Rooney's description of Noah Charney's professional background, character and ability to render facts on paper for a news story.

Ask any random person to go on google and give them 3 minutes to come up with a 50 word description of Noah Charney and see if they do any better than Emily Rooney did.

If Gardner Heist coverage seems strange it is because there is a bigger story behind it, and an even bigger story ahead of it and that is this:

We are entering "a time of informational chaos, when rival versions of reality are fighting for narrative supremacy."

And the Gardner Heist story is one place where this rivalry is playing itself out. It is a prelude to what appears to be just how things are going to be for a while and getting rid of Trump is not going to solve it.

Charney's story (the current version) suggests that raising the reward is an act of desperation. One thing we know is that the suggestion of a Boston Globe editorial from the time of 25th anniversary is unlikely to be considered no matter how hopeless things get in this 27 year old saga:

"After decades of frustration, the FBI ought to try opening its files on the Gardner Museum heist in hopes that fresh vision will help crack Boston’s most notorious unsolved mystery."

Truth up!

Monday, May 01, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Global Art Crime May 2017

Cambridge Fitzwilliam stolen jade 'lost for generations', expert says

Efforts to trace £57m-worth of Chinese artefacts stolen from a Cambridge University museum five years ago have proved fruitless, police said.
Thieves broke into the Fitzwilliam Museum on 13 April 2012 and escaped with 18 mainly jade items but since then there has been no trace of them.
Despite the passage of time, the museum remains hopeful of their return.
But an art expert believes the objects have been sold into China and could take generations to resurface.
A number of people were jailed for their roles in the Fitzwilliam robbery and other raids on museums and an auction house across the UK.
While items including a rhino head and Chinese artefacts were retrieved and returned, none of those from the Cambridge museum was ever found.
"Artwork is either recovered very quickly, or the thieves realise what they've got is radioactive, and it goes underground for a generation or more," Christopher Marinello, founder of Art Recovery International, said.
With the Fitzwilliam artefacts registered on a number of art databases including Interpol and Artive, any dealer exercising due diligence would realise the items are stolen "and that's how they might be located", he said.
Because the theft was so widely publicised, Mr Marinello believes the Fitzwilliam jade has "gone underground", most likely traded among criminals, perhaps for drugs or weapons.
While Cambridgeshire Police have confirmed the case is still open, the force is not looking for anyone else in connection with the theft.
The Fitzwilliam remains hopeful its jade will be found and returned, a spokeswoman said.
However, lawyer Mr Marinello, who specialises in recovering stolen artwork for museums, churches, insurance companies and private clients, thinks the museum could be waiting some time.
"I believe the Fitzwilliam jade has made its way to the top market for it in the world - and that's China," he said.
"I think they're in Chinese collections and until someone perhaps dies and the next generation decides to sell, I don't think we'll see them for quite a while."

£10,000 painting by J M Barclay stolen from home near East Linton

The Piper to the 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane, which has been stolen
The Piper to the 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane, which has been stolen
A PAINTING valued at about £10,000 has been stolen from an East Lothian home.
Police are appealing for witnesses following a housebreaking at an address near Kippielaw Farm, off Braeheads Loan, near East Linton.
The incident occurred between 5pm on Saturday, April 15, and 2.45pm on Monday, April 24.
Entry was forced to the property and several paintings, including a high-value oil painting, were taken.
The work, entitled 'The Piper to the 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane', by J M Barclay, dates from 1842 and is a 33” x 22” oil on canvas, valued in the region of £10,000.
Four of the other paintings taken were a black and gold Asian style design.
Local police are continuing with their enquiries and are asking anyone with information that may assist to come forward.
Community Inspector Andrew Hill from Haddington Police Station said: "Based upon the specific nature of the property taken it is likely that this is a targeted theft. A vehicle would have been involved.
"The paintings stolen are all originals and very distinctive.
"Crimes such as this are fortunately rare; however, apart from the financial loss to the owner, they also involve a loss of history and heritage.

The Edmonton man who inspired 'Yoga Hoser' arrested for possession of a $1.2-million ancient statue

For a while, it felt like destiny, a string of events so unlikely it could only have been fated. But Simon Metke doesn’t think that way any more.
Instead, for Mr. Metke, it now seems more like a cosmic joke that brought the Edmonton man and an ancient soldier together, thrusting him into a world of Canadian art theft, criminal justice, drug charges, flamboyantly bad Hollywood filmmaking, an army of deadly Canadian Nazi sausages and the creation of the term “yoga hoser.”
“Even though it was such a stressful thing, I still appreciate the beauty of the absurdity of it,” Mr. Metke says. “It’s so easy to try and make it meaningful because of how intense it all is, but it’s so abstract at the same time. People are just like, ‘Yeah, your life is crazy.’”
The story began in 2011, when a friend in Montreal told Mr. Metke about a man who was selling a stone sculpture of a soldier, claiming it was some kind of antiquity. Mr. Metke, who was deeply interested in ancient cultures and heading to Montreal for a visit, seemed a likely buyer.
But when Mr. Metke saw the piece in his friend’s apartment, he was skeptical. It looked to him more like a high-end replica, like a mantle decoration that could be bought at a home store in a suburban strip mall. Still, he appreciated the workmanship and, though the price was high – $1,400 – his friend stood to make a commission on the sale.
Appearing as it did just ahead of the year 2012 (the final year of the Mayan calendar) and in the midst of Mr. Metke’s own intense spiritual journey, well, he thought it was meant to be.
He googled, “Is there a Mesopotamian artifact missing?” but found nothing. So he bought the sculpture, packed it with his clothes and – after his suitcase was briefly lost by an airline – unwittingly brought a 2,500-year-old Persian artifact back to his condo in Edmonton.
At first, Mr. Metke kept it in a meditation area in his living room. But he eventually moved it onto a bedroom bookshelf, where the bas-relief sculpture that once lined the hall in Persepolis sat among an array of Star Wars figurines, stuffed animals and crystals, no more meaningful or special than his other mementos and icons. He thought about taking it on Antiques Roadshow to see if it was worth anything, but never did.
Unbeknownst to Mr. Metke, the sculpture had been stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts a couple of months before he bought it, although the theft was not initially made public. It was valued at $1.2-million, and there was a hefty reward available for its return.
On Jan. 22, 2014, police officers working with the RCMP’s Integrated Art Crime Investigation Team showed up at his door.
“The sun’s coming in through the window, the bougainvillea flowers are glowing, the crystals are making rainbows,” he says, mimicking what he said when interviewed following his arrest for the theft of the sculpture and some drug-related charges.
Mr. Metke’s case – and that colourful quote – caught the attention of Kevin Smith, the American film director behind movies such as Clerks, Mallrats and Dogma, who joked about the story on his podcast. When co-host Scott Mosier mimicked an RCMP officer at the door of Mr. Metke’s apartment saying, “Open up, yoga hoser,” the term took hold.
On April 20 that year – 420, the day that potheads annually celebrate the cannabis culture – Mr. Smith announced he was working on a script for a movie called Yoga Hosers. The plot was not actually Mr. Metke’s story – it’s about two teenaged girls from Winnipeg who save the country from Canadian Nazi sausages – but the film included a flaky yoga teacher character named Yogi Bayer, clearly styled to resemble Mr. Metke.
The movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, 2016, with a cast that included Johnny Depp and Natasha Lyonne. Justin Long, who played Yogi Bayer, tried to contact Mr. Metke before it shot to help develop the character.
“He eventually called me, months after I shot my scenes,” Mr. Long said, speaking on the carpet at Sundance.
The movie was broadly panned, with one review describing it as “close to unwatchable” and “a corny Canuck joke, told for 88 surreally unfunny minutes.”
The situation has, at times, felt surreal and unfunny for Mr. Metke, too.
But after more than three years, the case was finally resolved in an Edmonton courtroom this week. Mr. Metke pleaded guilty to one count of possession of stolen property. Two drug-related charges were stayed.
An agreed statement of facts acknowledged Mr. Metke didn’t know the artifact was stolen but that he “could have gone further” to determine where it came from. The case was described variously by the Crown and defence as “very unique,” “very, very unique” and “extraordinary.”
The judge granted Mr. Metke a conditional discharge with a period of probation and community service. Dozens of friends who showed up in court for Mr. Metke broke out in cheers, and some wiped away tears. Mr. Metke hugged the prosecutor.
With the threat of jail and the possibility of a criminal record behind him, Mr. Metke says he plans to get back into projects he had been working on, including shooting documentary footage of ancient landscapes and further developing a vertical garden system he created. He’s refining a theory about life he calls “The Entropy of Irony,” and is trying to find positive things in his strange experience.
He says he started to watch Yoga Hosers once, and may try again one day.
The ancient soldier, meanwhile, is back at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Court heard it returned from its journey in “pristine condition,” carried back by an archeology professor who travelled to Edmonton to retrieve it.
There’s an orange stuffed octopus on the shelf where the artifact used to be. Mr. Metke knows exactly where it came from.

Lindauer paintings stolen in Auckland art heist 'radioactive'

Lindauer paintings stolen in Auckland art heist 'radioactive'

A leading expert in recovering stolen and missing art said media coverage of the recent smash and grab style theft of two high-profile paintings had left them worthless to thieves.
Chris Marinello from Art Recovery International in Italy said the two Gottfried Lindauer paintings snatched from International Art Centre in Parnell, Auckland, were now "radioactive" and no one would buy them.
Marinello, an expert who had seen more than $500 million of art recovered, said last weekend's ram-raid theft of the two paintings was amateur and opportunistic.

Art recovery expert Christopher Marinello has negotiated the recovery of more than $500m of stolen art - including this Matisse. Photo / supplied
Art recovery expert Christopher Marinello has negotiated the recovery of more than $500m of stolen art - including this Matisse. Photo / supplied
"This was not an elegant robbery. It was totally unsophisticated by people who thought they would be able to sell the paintings quickly," he said.
"The level of interest and the publicity in the theft means these paintings are now radioactive - no one in their right mind will touch them."
Marinello is based at Art Recovery International's office in Venice but the company also works out of the UK and United States.
He has helped recover more than $500m of stolen and looted artwork and helped in the recovery of art taken by Nazis in World War II.
Just last year Marinello negotiated the return of a priceless 16th-century carving stolen decades earlier from a historic church in London.
A film crew were working with Marinello as he worked through locating seven high-profile stolen works.
Marinello urged New Zealand authorities to register the Lindauer theft and details of the artworks on the register.
He oversaw the development of the database which is considered the most technologically advanced system in the identification of stolen art.

CCTV footage of the get-away car used in the theft of two Gottfried Lindaeur paintings. Photo / supplied.
CCTV footage of the get-away car used in the theft of two Gottfried Lindaeur paintings. Photo / supplied.
The paintings stolen in the Parnell ram-raid were both by Gottfried Lindauer in 1884 and were known as Chieftainess Ngatai - Raure and Chief Ngatai - Raure. They were about to be auctioned, and were estimated to be worth $1m together.
Czech-born Lindauer trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and migrated to New Zealand in 1874.
He became one of the most prolific and best-known painters of Maori subjects along with Charles Frederick Goldie.
Marinello said there was a possibility a ransom could be demanded for the paintings' return or they could be used to access drugs or weapons or as leverage in a "get out of jail free card".
He said the theft of the well-known paintings was unlikely to be an ordered grab.
If that was the case more care would have been taken, he said.
"We are not talking about stolen to order because of the way the smash and grab was done.
"My thought is it is common thugs looking to make quick cash."

The International Art Centre in Parnell was robbed in a ram-raid and two Lindauer paintings were stolen. Photo / Jason Oxenham
The International Art Centre in Parnell was robbed in a ram-raid and two Lindauer paintings were stolen. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Marinello said paintings in a window attracted smash and grab theft.
"It's the sparkle in the window - they take what they can and they are off."
He said the paintings could be recovered soon - or could take as long as a decade.
Most works were recovered, because it was harder to sell stolen art than it was to take it in the first place, he said.
"There is a bit of a black-market of course but they are offered for only about 5 per cent of their value."
Marinello said there was a market for the Lindauers overseas because they were attractive works of art and that was why the register was so important.
If the pieces were recovered Marinello said their value would depend on damage done.
The high-profile theft of James Tissot's painting Still on Top saw it plummet in value.

The work was stolen from Auckland Art Gallery in one of New Zealand's most high-profile art heists. Ricardo Sannd, also known as Ricardo Romanov, walked into Auckland Art Gallery with a gun and cut the famous work from its frame in 1998.
The painting was found under Romanov's bed a week later but was so badly damaged tiny pieces of it were found on the gallery floor for weeks.
Although it will never be sold the painting went from an estimated $8m to an insured $2m.
Marinello said some works increased in value because the theft contributed to the story.
"There was a Picasso that was stolen and the theft increased the value because it added to the colour of the work's story.
"That is not usually the case though."
Many works were rolled up, treated badly and stored in conditions vastly different to the temperature controlled environments of museums and galleries.
"They are stored under beds, hidden away because they are that hard to sell," he said.
"I had a $6m painting handed to me in a garbage bag out the window of a Mercedes."
New Zealand art expert Penelope Jackson echoed Marinello's thoughts and concerns on the Lindauers' theft.

New Zealand art expert Penelope Jackson. Photo / supplied.
New Zealand art expert Penelope Jackson. Photo / supplied.
She said there was a lot of speculation as to motive but said until the culprits were caught it was largely an unknown.
"We just have to hope they are recovered unscathed because at 130 years old these two pieces are very vulnerable."
Jackson said talk that the gallery should not have had art in the window was a shame.
"It would be a sad thing if we got to the stage where galleries can't display art because there is a risk of theft.
"It's hard to entice people into an auction with blank walls."
Police put alerts on New Zealand boarders after the theft and Interpol was notified. Police continue to investigate.


Most art stolen within New Zealand has been recovered.
The most famous piece still "at large" is Psyche - a 1902 work by British artist Solomon Joseph Solomon.
In her book art thieves, fakers & fraudsters - the New Zealand author Penelope Jackson outlines the mystery of the 1942 theft.
Theories include an inside job and a phoney burglary to cover up damage done by a cleaner.
Hopes were raised in 1982 when a man came forward and said he had seen the life-size reclining nude painting in a Napier house.
It ended up being a similar painting by a Christchurch art student.
Later in the year the gallery received a Polaroid of what was thought to be Psyche.
The photo was later revealed to be a hoax with the clever confession:
Dear Sir,
Psyches sleep, Psyches awake
Some are real, some are fake
Masterpieces are seldom met,
Touch this one, the paint is still wet.
Other recovered high-profile pieces include the 1997 theft of Colin McCahon's Urewera mural stolen from a Department of Conservation visitor centre by Tuhoe activist Te Kaha. The work was returned 15 months later after negotiations.
In 1998 the $8m James Tissot oil painting - Still on Top - was stolen by career criminal Ricardo Sannd, also known as Ricardo Romanov.
Armed with a gun Sannd stole the painting, worth $8m, from Auckland Art Gallery. It was later found hidden under his bed.
Sannd was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison for the crime.
In 2005 the statue Pania of the Reef was stolen from the Napier foreshore. The motive was never known but Pania was discovered a month later and recovered by police. She was restored, then replaced.


The Mystery of the $2.5 Million Rare Book Heist

In January, three thieves drilled through the skylight of a building near Heathrow Airport and rappelled 40 feet to the floor, bypassing the security alarms, and making off with around $2.5 million-worth of rare books.
There is a special place saved in the pantheon of art thieves for those who commit their crimes while displaying almost supernatural feats of athletic prowess.
Thieves who climb up walls, through windows, or prowl around raising nary an alarm get nicknames like “Spideman” and “Ghost.” They have even inspired their own sub-genre of thrillers—think Catherine Zeta Jones’s Cirque de Soleil-worthy contortions to steal a valuable mask in Entrapment.
But it’s Tom Cruise’s vault heist in Mission: Impossible that is the most apt model when it comes to a recent theft of 160 antique books from a warehouse in London.
Late in the night on Jan. 29, three still-unknown thieves drilled through the skylight of a building near Heathrow Airport and rappelled 40 feet to the floor, bypassing the security alarms.
They went straight to six specific crates that contained three dealers’ worth of books that were en route to the California International Antiquarian Book Fair in Oakland.
Over the course of several hours, they unloaded the books they wanted into duffel bags, belayed their loot to the roof, and took off in a waiting van. The haul totaled nearly $2.5 million.
“Behind these books there is a lot of work because we have to search to try to find out where the books are—auction houses, collectors, colleagues—and there’s big research behind these books,” Alessandro Meda Riquier, one of the affected dealers, tells Sky News. “They are not only taking money away from me but also a big part of my job.”
Riquier was the owner of several of the most noteworthy tomes that were taken in the heist. The most expensive book was a second edition of Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres from 1566 in which the astronomer introduced his revolutionary theory that the sun—not the Earth—is the center of the universe.
That book alone is worth over $250,000. Among the rest of the trove are several rare editions of Dante’s Divine Comedy and a smattering of Galileos, Newtons, and da Vincis, among other titles from the luminaries of the early sciences.
All in all, it is the quantity of books stolen rather than the individual titles that make this heist so significant.
“The books were there for only a short time in that warehouse, and this is a very exotic commodity so this is not something that the average person thinks that they can sell,” Jeremy Norman, a rare book dealer with a specialty in the early sciences, tells The Daily Beast. “I think it’s a real mystery. You really wonder how they knew the stuff was there, and the timing of it, and how they were shipped off, and what the real motivation was.”
Several theories have been offered as to why the thieves went after this quarry. One suggests that this may have been a “made to order” theft, one in which a buyer specifically commissioned the thieves to take these titles.
Similar to fine art, stolen antique books are very difficult to sell on the legitimate market—and thereby net the title’s full value. When a rare book crime becomes known, organizations like the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA) quickly take action to alert their members to the volumes that were stolen so dealers can be on the lookout for anyone trying to offload a tainted treasure.
“If you’re a seller, you’re not going to want to touch something that might remotely be even possibly stolen because you’re going to lose a lot of face with your customer,” Susan Benne, executive director of the ABAA, tells The Daily Beast. She points out that the rare book market deals in a lot of repeat transactions, books that change hands multiple times.
The difficulty of sorting out a stolen book after it has made its way through a few owners ensures that most booksellers are painstakingly principled when it comes to provenance. 
“It’s a real hassle to have to go back through the process of dealing with insurance companies, with law enforcement,” Benne says, noting that “above and beyond wanting to do the right thing anyway” dealing with stolen material in the end isn’t worth it for dealers.
While a wealthy collector with a gleam in his eye could have commissioned the theft, the more likely scenario is that it was a crime of opportunity. In this theory, a gang of nefarious local elements had help from someone inside the warehouse’s operation who tipped them off to the presence of the expensive cargo and the exact details of the books’ schedule and location.
The shipment was only being stored for a few days, so the opportunity to take the books, not to mention the ability to quickly pick the correct crates out of a room full of other goods that were left untouched, most likely required some help. As Norman says, “to coordinate such a thing, this is like in a movie, how would you know?”
But if this is what happened, the three felons are most likely sitting somewhere scratching their heads right now trying to figure out how to get rid of their ill-begotten library. 
“Maybe it was tempting to professional thieves who didn’t understand that this isn’t going to be something that you can fence like jewelry,” Norman says. “I can tell you it’s not going to affect the prices of books, and it’s going to be really hard for these books to be converted to cash if that’s what they want to do.” 
Another member of the community, Chris Marinello, CEO of Art Recovery International, offered The Guardian a more dire warning for what might happen if these thieves find it difficult to cash out.
“The books might then be broken up,” he says. “Some of the illuminated manuscripts and engravings contained therein might be traded in the art market, where many buyers don’t know they were cut out of rare books. It becomes a lot more difficult to trace.”
The antique book community is no stranger to crime, but the London heist broke the previous mold. It’s not uncommon for rare bookstore owners to catch someone slipping a book into their pocket—Norman says he dealt with this occasionally at the store he owned for 30 years. And institutions like libraries that have a permanent collection of treasures are not immune to thefts, whether from outsider thieves or by employees or visiting scholars who are looking to make a few extra bucks on the side. 
“I mean the thefts that have been really disruptive and sort of shocking in our world, a lot of them more recently have come from libraries,” Benne says. 
As a comparison to the London theft, Norman mentions the 1969 attempt on the Gutenberg Bible at the Widener Library at Harvard.
The amateur thief lowered himself by rope into the room where the Bible was displayed, packed the two volumes up in his backpack, and attempted to scale back up to the roof. Unfortunately, he miscalculated how heavy the tomes actually were—over 60 pounds when carried together—and he fell to the ground. Needless to say, the crime was thwarted.
But incompetence isn’t the only thing that separates the 1969 attempted theft from the 160 books successful stolen in January. 
“The books in the Harvard Library were there for years. Everybody knew about them, they weren’t going anywhere, you could target it. That [theft] was daring and it flopped,” Norman says. “[The London theft] took real skill… that’s got to be professionals. So now we’re up against professional thieves, and we could have more trouble than we used to have in the past.”

Hertford artist Alan Davie's window cleaner jailed for stealing paintings worth £500,000

Daniel Pressland leaving court

Daniel Pressland leaving court
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A window cleaner who stole £500,000 worth of paintings from renowned Hertford painter Alan Davie after his death has been jailed for four years.
Daniel Pressland, 42, was aware of the value of Mr Davie's paintings and knew of weaknesses in the security at his home.
He pounced when the Scottish artist died aged 93 in 2014, carrying out a series of burglaries before being caught in the act with three paintings in his van.
READ MORE: World-famous artist's window cleaner accused of stealing art worth £500,000
He claimed he wanted to use the paintings, worth £90,000, as ramps to get his motorcross bike into his van.
Passing sentence at St Albans Crown Court yesterday (April 5), Judge John Plumstead described him as a "vulture".
He said: "You happened on an opportunity to get rich quick by stealing from someone who you had been worked for for years.
"You were like a vulture on a carcass and just helping yourself. You acted disgracefully."

Alan Davie in his Hertford workshopPressland had worked for Mr Davie, whose work had been displayed at the Tate Modern, since 2002, cleaning windows and doing odd jobs.
The judge said Pressland had committed the burglaries not realising the art gallery that acted on behalf of Mr Davie had a complete record of everything he had painted or drawn in his lifetime and would know what was missing.
During his trial, the jury heard that in all he took 31 paintings from the artist's home at Gamels Studio in Rush Green.
Sarah Morris, prosecuting, said the works totaled half a million pounds in value, but that £243,500 worth of art remained unrecovered.
READ MORE: Items that inspired Alan Davie go on auction
The last of Pressland's break-ins took place during the day on April 2, 2015, almost a year after the death of Mr Davie.
Neighbours of the painter, who had been admired by artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and David Hockney, were concerned to see Pressland at the house and putting large canvases into the back of a van.
Police were alerted and were quickly on the scene and caught the window cleaner as he was driving away.
The jury was told that during an interview with the police Pressland told them he kept his ladders in the painter's garage and, having gone there to collect them, saw the three works of art which he assumed had been "put out there for the rubbish".

Some of Alan Davie's paintingsBut yesterday (April 5) before passing sentence Judge Plumstead said it was quite possible Pressland had committed more break-ins at the home of Mr Davie using his knowledge of the faulty upstairs window to gain entry.
Pressland, of Outward Common, Billericay, was found guilty of burgling the home of the artist between April and August of 2014, when 11 paintings were stolen.
Fellow defendant Gavin Challis, 42, from Nazeing, was acquitted of possessing criminal property.
He said he had taken Pressland at face value when he had offered him two paintings for £5,000 and had no reason to believe he was buying criminal property. The Davie works found hanging in his home were worth £26,000.
Mr Davie was born in Grangemouth, Scotland and went to the Edinburgh College of Art in the late 1930s.

See the Most Expensive Townhouse Ever Sold in New York City

A Depression-era mansion on Manhattan's Upper East Side sold yesterday for a record $79.5 million, according to public records, making it by far the most ever paid for a New York City townhouse.
That distinction used to belong to another Upper East Side property, the Harkness Mansion, when it sold in 2006 for $53 million.
David Wildenstein, scion of his family's art fortune, reportedly sold the 41-foot-wide, 25,000 square foot limestone-clad mansion to a Chinese hedge fund, according to the New York Post. The Beaux Arts-style building, which has three stories and 20-foot high ceilings, housed the Wildenstein art gallery for almost a century.
The property, though, is not without its share of controversy.
Billionaire Len Blavatnik sued for millions last year after he believed Wildenstein reneged on a verbal agreement to sell his firm the townhouse for $79 million, according to Bloomberg.
Blavatnik made the bid after the government of Qatar, which was in talks to buy the property in 2014, balked at the last minute. The home was then put back on the market for $100 billion.
News reports have accused the Wildenstein family fortune of being buoyed by an alleged history of dealing in Nazi-stolen art.
David's father Guy Wildenstein was recently cleared of charges that he attempted to launder money to avoid a French tax bill.

Taxidermy burglar sentenced after recovery of van full of stuffed animals

A member of a gang which stole taxidermy from a well-known dealer a year ago, has been sentenced
All the items stolen, included two full African lion mounts, two infant zebras, a troop of baboons and a king penguin, were recovered.
Jason Robert Hopwood, 47, of Drummond Road, Romford, who pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to his part in the burglary and fraudulent use of a registration plate, was sentenced to 21 months' imprisonment, suspended for two years, at Kingston Crown Court on April 4. He was also ordered to work 200 hours' community service.
The court heard how at around 19.30 on March 1, 2016, a burglary took place at the warehouse of London Taxidermy at the Wimbledon Stadium Business Centre.
An angle grinder was used to remove the padlocks and the doors forced open. CCTV footage suggests the van left the scene around 20 minutes later.

Valued at £100,000

Dealer Alexis Turner told ATG he had lost a significant portion of his stock following the raid. However, many of the 27 stolen items with a value of close to £100,000 were immediately identifiable.
Press coverage of the unusual nature of the crime aided in the recovery.
DC Stuart Goss, from Wandsworth CID, said: "I would also like to thank the media, as I am sure reporting of our appeal forced the criminals to abandon the stolen goods. Cataloguing and exhibiting the stolen items was a truly unique and memorable experience”.
Acting on information three weeks after the incident, Essex Police found an abandoned van in the Stapleford Abbots area in Essex. False plates were believed to have been attached and inside were all of the stolen goods. Turner told ATG he received all of the items back within a month after forensic testing and his insurance company had paid out on loss of income.
Hopwood, identified as the owner of the van, is the only member of the gang to be prosecuted in relation to the theft. He was arrested on September 29 and charged on November 10.

Photos of Guercino painting, rolled up like a rug by thieves, reveal extent of damage

The work was taken from an Italian church in 2014 and recently recovered in Casablanca
Photos of Guercino painting, rolled up like a rug by thieves, reveal extent of damage
The altarpiece before (left) and after the theft
The first photographs of the Guercino painting stolen from an Italian church in 2014, which was recently recovered in Casablanca, show the extent of damage to the work. Reports in the Italian and Moroccan press suggest that the 17th-century depiction of the Virgin Mary and two saints has lost around a third of its surface paint. The majority of losses appear to be on the lower part of the canvas. But any restoration work will have to wait until the picture returns to Italy. Italian and North African authorities are currently finalising the details.

The painting, entitled Madonna with the Saints John the Evangelist and Gregory the Wonderworker (1639), was tracked to a suburb of Casablanca. It was recovered in February after the thieves tried to sell the picture for ten million dirham (around £800,000). According to the Italian newspaper Modena Today, one of the men arrested in connection with the theft told the police that the painting had been stored rolled up like a carpet, which likely contributed to its current condition.

The altarpiece was stolen from the Church of San Vincenzo in Modena in 2014. At the time of the theft, the art critic Vittorio Sgarbi described the picture as a monumental work that could be worth between €5m and €6m.