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|7/7/2006 5:25:52 AM|
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|FindStolenArt assists in return of clock|
|4/22/2002 11:35:14 AM|
|Whilst browsing the FindStolenArt Website, a specialist dealer in West Malling, Kent recognised a stolen bracket clock that she had purchased earlier. The clock had been stolen from a private residence in November 2001 and has now been returned to its rightful owner.|
|Lynne Chaffinch Tracks Thousands Of Stolen Works|
|Museum Security Network|
Michael Kilian Chicago Tribune
4/19/2001 6:29:44 AM
According to INTERPOL, between $4 billion and $6 billion in art is stolen
every year throughout the world, much of it turning up on the U.S. art market. To cope with
this global crime problem, the FBI has deployed a powerful law enforcement resource.
Her name is Lynne Chaffinch. Since 1997, she has run the FBI's art theft program, which
among other things maintains a computer database containing files on more than 100,000
pieces of stolen art. And, as the bureau's only certifiable art expert, she does it all by
"You're looking at the art theft program," she said, indicating herself as she sat in her
modest office at FBI headquarters in Washington.
An art and archeological scholar who came to the FBI from her position at Monticello,
Thomas Jefferson's Virginia home, Chaffinch is not an FBI special agent. She packs no
heat, and is not empowered to make arrests.
But she doesn't need to, for she has all 56 FBI field offices, 400 smaller offices and 11,300
special agents at her disposal in dealing with art cases. And, when they or other law
enforcement agencies need assistance with cases involving stolen art that break in their
local jurisdictions, they call Chaffinch. The same goes for foreign governments who think
stolen or looted art may have turned up in or been bound for the U.S.
Chaffinch keeps track of what stolen art is out there whether it's 3,000-year-old Chinese
terra cotta heads or a priceless Vermeer painting, such as was snatched in the 1990
robbery of Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Expertise that agents don't have
"Basically, there's not a single FBI agent assigned to art theft, not one," said Special Agent
John Strong, who has worked with Chaffinch. "In five minutes, they [art experts] know I'm
not one of them. Lynne's not an agent, but she can go out there [into the art world] because
she was one of them. She doesn't have to fool them. . . . She's got the knowledge and the
Such expertise can be valuable. One piece of supposedly junk sculpture a burglar sold to a
pawnbroker for $40 turned out to be an Alexander Archipenko work worth $600,000.
Unlike the art theft insurance agent Rene Russo played in "The Thomas Crown Affair"
movie, Chaffinch does not spend a lot of time wearing designer clothes to posh gallery
openings or on jaunts to exotic locations.
Instead, she is most likely to be found at her computer. She directs investigations,
coordinating various agents' efforts, and pursues leads on her own. She also serves as the
in-house program analyst for the FBI's stolen jewelry and gem theft investigations.
But once in a while she does get out, such as the time she went out on a search warrant.
An informant had told the bureau there was some valuable art on a suspect's premises, and
the field agents needed Chaffinch's expertise to determine whether that was true.
"The informant was embellishing," Strong said. "He didn't know art from a lawn jockey."
The daughter of an Air Force colonel, Chaffinch was born in Texas and grew up on or near
military bases all over the world. She graduated from the University of California-Davis with
majors in archeology and anthropology, and earned her master's degree in museum studies
from San Francisco State University. Before the FBI, she worked as an archivist, cultural
anthropologist and in other arts and antiquities related positions for the Smithsonian
Institution, the Los Angeles Museum of Western Heritage, the Oakland Museum and
She read about the FBI job in a museum newsletter and responded to it on impulse,
encouraged by some detective work she'd done for her sister, a Los Angeles-based
"She called me and said, `You know, I've got these [stolen] pieces and I don't know who to
go to about them,'" Chaffinch said. "I helped her find the right experts and where the stuff
might come in and where it might hit the art market. She was able to do surveillance on the
warehouse and recover the objects. I thought, `That's really neat. That's a cool thing to do.'
So when I saw this job listing, I thought, `I've got no chance to get it but I'm going to send in
Though there are occasional high-profile museum heists like the Gardner case, most of the
art stolen in the U.S. is taken from residences, Chaffinch said, and usually the perpetrators
don't know the value of what they're taking.
"Not that there aren't more sophisticated thieves out there," Chaffinch said, "but generally
the art thief in the U.S. is the same guy who will steal your car or your TV."
The problem for the FBI is that the U.S. buys 60 percent of all the art sold in the world, and
a lot of that art is stolen.
American galleries are often suspicious of prospective sellers of art, Chaffinch said. "But
they won't call law enforcement because they're afraid their customers will fear that if they
have any suspicion, `they'll call the cops on me.'"
Chaffinch's data file is a big help in that respect. It even contains reports of stolen classic
cars, including a rare decades-old Aston Martin taken in Florida that was originally used in
an early James Bond movie.
"It's still out there," she said.
How stolen pieces are disguised
Because there's no way yet for a customs agent to tell on the spot that, say, a Picasso
painting might be stolen, it's often hard to stop the importation of purloined art in the U.S. If
the thieves try to hide the art or fail to declare it, however, agents can grab them for
customs violations. Sometimes thieves go to great lengths to disguise their art, especially
"In a case where some Egyptian items were taken, what the thieves did was dress them up
to look like cheap souvenirs," Chaffinch said. "Then, when they got them to the U.S., they
took everything off, and, boom."
After the Gardner burglary, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and others gave Chaffinch and
the FBI a hand by getting legislation passed in 1994 to make a lot of art theft a federal
Now, if a piece of art is stolen, is worth more than $5,000 and is more than 100 years old,
it's a federal crime to possess it. If it's worth more than $100,000, the age doesn't matter.
Chaffinch's job may be considered one of the most exciting to be had in the art world,
though she confesses she spends most of the time at her computer, "going `arggghhh.'"
But she's happy.
Said Strong: "She doesn't want to become an agent Strong, "because then she'd be like
the rest of us."
"I'd be shipped off to do counterterrorism somewhere," Chaffinch said. "I'm already where I
want to be--in my own little kingdom here."
|Rare Lowry found 8 years after theft|
1/27/2001 5:32:36 PM
A RARE canvas painted on both sides by L. S. Lowry, stolen from the home of a retired
opera singer and presumed lost for ever, has reappeared eight years after the theft to the
delight of art experts.
Scenes entitled House in a Park and The School Gates were painted
on the two sides of the canvas by the Manchester-born artist, famed for his industrial
landscapes depicting the north of England in the early 20th century.
The picture was stolen
from the home of Anna Pollak, a former mezzo-soprano who was a star at Sadler's Wells
during the 1940s. By the time Miss Pollak died four years ago, the police had all but given
up the search for the stolen artwork.
Last year, however, the canvas appeared for sale at
Bonhams, the auctioneers. The recovered canvas, extremely rare because both sides were
painted, was worth just £4,000 when it was stolen. It was sold last November for £42,000. It
was a bequest of great sentimental value from Miss Pollak's lifelong companion, Erica
Marx, a great-granddaughter of Karl Marx, the communist philosopher.
Police have investigated the
painting's reappearance but no arrest has been made. A spokesman for Kent police said:
"We interviewed a man who brought a painting for sale to a London auction house but we
could never disprove his version of events. He told us that he had bought it a long time ago
at a car boot sale."
|Thieves Steal Quarter-Ton Stone Lion |
Manchester Evening News
|Park rangers in Stockport are keeping a close watch on a quarter-
ton ornamental lion after its mate was stolen from a gatepost. The
thieves are believed to have used a crane to steal the lion. Scratch
marks on the other animal indicate they probably tried to take both
statues from Vernon Park. The new lions replaced the original
sandstone statues two years ago when council officials were
awarded a £1.6 million lottery grant to restore the park to its former
glory. Park landscape officer Brian Byland told the Manchester
Evening News: "Four burly contractors couldn't lift one of the lions
more than two feet off the ground. "The thieves must have used
machinery and a lorry to remove the statue and probably waited
until the early hours of the morning when it was quiet."
|Presenters Team Up With Police|
|By Rajeev Syal and David Bamber|
Presenters from BBC's Antiques Roadshow are teaming up with undercover police
officers to expose crooked dealers and counterfeiters. Alastair Dickenson, the
show's silverware specialist, accompanied plainclothes officers when they
raided an antiques dealer from Chester and found a bag containing 16 identical
counterfeit silver snuffboxes and eight false tortoiseshell-plated antiques. Mr
Dickenson, 49, spotted that the boxes made in the Victorian style had fake
Georgian hallmarks. Last week Alan Shindler, 59, who owns the shop, began a
six-month jail sentence for selling fake goods.
Mr Dickenson said: "I was asked by trading standards officers to get involved
as they started to close in on the fraudsters. They paid me to go with them
into the shop and examine the wares and I found that they were obvious
forgeries. The police do seem very keen on hiring the services of recognised
experts. The Roadshow does put us in the public eye and so it is natural that
they ask us to help them out."
Peter Nahum, one of the programmes's fine art specialists, helped to smash one
of the biggest peddlers of counterfeit art ever to operate in Britain. He helped
police identify fakes among a number of paintings sold as works by Marc Chagall,
Georges Braque and Paul Klee which had been sold by a dealer, John Drewe.
Last week he said that police were seeking the help of expert witnesses more
and more as they close in on counterfeiters: "Art fraud is the second oldest
profession in the world - but it is growing at a pace. The number and quality of
copies are increasing so quickly."
Bill Harriman, who has regularly assessed firearms on the show since 1985, has
also been asked to give expert testimony by the police and trading standards
departments. As well as appearing on the programme, Mr Harriman is firearms
officer for the British Association for Shooting and Conservation.
Recently he was commissioned to provide an opinion on whether a sword sold by a
Brighton antiques dealer, described as coming from the Nazi era, was genuine. He
said: "In this case my opinion was commissioned by the defence, but it makes no
difference because I am completely impartial and would give the same opinion
whoever asked for it. The sword was definitely from the pre-Nazi era but it had
two SS lightning-style initials engraved on it.
"The antiques dealer was being accused of selling a fake but in my opinion the
SS flashmarks were put there during the Nazi era. They were consistent with
others and were to a high standard, so the sword was genuine. Trading standards
dropped the case."
He is also regularly asked to judge whether firearms seized by the police are
legally held. Six months ago, he was asked by police in Wales whether a handgun
was legally held since the 1997 ban was imposed. "I said I thought it was
legally held and, what's more, qualified as an antique so was exempt from the
The show's experts have even been used by thieves to evaluate their hoards.
Last month one suspect, described as a "military gent" with a handlebar
moustache, was told his silver antiques were worth £20,000 when he took them to
the Roadshow, being filmed in Middlesbrough. Police later realised he was a
conman, valuing stolen goods.
|Stolen Enigma Machine Returned|
|By Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent|
JEREMY PAXMAN opened a mystery parcel yesterday and found the missing Enigma
cipher machine, stolen six months ago from Bletchley Park, the home of
Britain's wartime codebreakers. The presenter of Newsnight and University
Challenge did not at first realise the bonus that was waiting for him in the
BBC offices. The hefty cardboard package, sent by Royal Mail special
had been lying unopened for days before a colleague pointed out it was
addressed to him.
Paxman said: "As soon as I opened it I realised what it was. It looks as
it is authentic. It's got the G312 code on the back. I haven't a clue why
sent it to me. As far as I know I haven't got a reputation as a receiver of
stolen goods. I'm delighted to be able to return it to its rightful owner.
They are very poignant machines. I think what they did at Bletchley Park during
war was quite outstanding."
The device, which was posted in a wooden box with a leather handle and
in three layers of packing and bubble wrapping, has yet to be authenticated
Bletchley Park. It was sent without its three main rotors, the key
component, and the Bletchley Park Trust was told these would only be handed
in return for £25,000 compensation. The rare, four-rotor version of the
machine used by German military intelligence is worth £100,000 intact but
less without its rotors.
Christine Large, the trust's chief executive, said that the "new owner" had
contacted her yesterday to give his instructions for a handover of £25,000,
which he claims was paid for the machine, in exchange for the rotors.
The trust agreed to pay the ransom following a threat from a "middle-man",
claiming to act for someone who bought the machine, that it would be
A British company is understood to have come forward to offer the £25,000.
Mrs Large said: "Following this act of faith by the new owner of G312, we
now attempting to put him in touch with representatives of the benefactor
has come forward with the £25,000 ransom."
The machine, which had been loaned to the trust by GCHQ, Britain's
codebreaking organisation, was in a wooden box the size of a typewriter. It
disappeared on an open day in April shortly before the trust's display of
Enigma machines was to be fitted with infra-red alarms.
|Dealers give thumbs down to art print plan|
|Dalya Alberge, Arts Correspondent|
|ANTIQUE dealers always relish the chance to get their hands on a
nice set of black and white prints. Now the police are to help them
to build up their collection. In an attempt to make buying and
selling stolen property more difficult, customers are being invited to
leave their thumbprint with the object they are offering for sale. The
scheme, which has been piloted by Kent police and is to spread
nationwide, involves officers distributing thumbprint kits to traders.
They are also handing out Polaroid cameras and urging dealers to
photograph vendors. The assumption is that people with nothing to
hide will not object. The thumbprint process is said to take 15
seconds and the ink rubs off the fingers instantly. Within weeks of
launching the scheme, police in southeast Kent said that
photographs and prints had been used as evidence against
handlers of stolen goods. Items worth £3,500 have been recovered.
Some antiques dealers are outraged at the scheme. Georgina
McKinnon, of Newington Antiques, near Sittingbourne, Kent, said:
"We're all aghast." She believes that, even if clients are legitimate,
they will be shocked at being treated like criminals. Malcolm Hord,
chief executive of Lapada, the trade body representing more than
700 dealers around the country, said: "We're outraged by this."
Roger Bingham, of Liberty, the civil liberties organisation, echoed
the dealers' reservations: "We do have concerns about a blanket
collection of data on people when it's regardless of whether there
are grounds for suspecting them." Police said that secondhand
dealers - including high street jewellers and electrical shops - are
increasingly recognising that thumbprints are just another signature
or proof of identity in doing business.
|UK signs art theft convention |
|3/24/2001 9:56:14 PM|
The UK government has signed up to a UN convention banning the illicit trade in cultural property, including art works and antiques.
The UK joins 91 other countries that have already signed up to the 1970 Unesco convention.
The international agreement will make it easier for countries to reclaim stolen works of art which surface in the territories of fellow signatories.
|Museum guard smuggled out rare coins in his pocket|
|The Times |
1/27/2001 5:06:13 PM
A MUSEUM attendant smuggled out a hoard of rare coins in his pockets and sold them on
to specialist dealers for a fraction of their true worth. Douglas Wilson helped himself to
more than 150 coins , including one worth £100,000, from Perth Museum and Art Gallery,
where he had worked for two years.
The thefts were discovered when management updated
the catalogue of the coin collection. At Perth Sheriff Court yesterday, Wilson admitted
stealing coins worth £158,715. Sentence was deferred for reports.
Wilson, 42, of Perth, had
keys that allowed access to locked store areas and the locked boxes where coins were
kept. The court was told that between September 1999 and February last year, he often left
the museum with a pocketful of coins. He sold them to dealers around the country. It is
believed, however, that Wilson, who had no previous convictions, had little idea of their value
and sold them for substantially less than their true worth.
Museum staff were modernising
the records when they discovered that a significant number of coins had gone missing. A
14th-century gold coin, one of only five in the world and estimated to be worth about
£100,000, was recovered by police with the majority of the other coins that Wilson had
sold. However, coins worth about £20,000 have never been traced.
After the museum
contacted police, checks were carried out on Wilson's finances and he was discovered to
have cashed large cheques at a shop in Perth in the name of his girlfriend, Ida Coghlan, 43.
Ms Coghlan was charged with reset of the coins. The case was dropped by the Crown.
Michael Taylor, Perth Museum's head of arts and heritage, said after the case yesterday
that a security review had taken place at the museum. "We were obviously very
disappointed because in a job like this there is a tremendous element of trust," he said. "It
is a very responsible position in terms of having access to a valuable asset which belongs
to society, and that position was abused by Douglas. But I am glad to say that the majority
of the coins have been recovered. "Given the nature of museums there is no way you can
keep staff away from the collection and we did the usual employee record checks."