The mystery of what happened to a multi-million-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen in a stun gun attack was answered when Milwaukee police recovered it and blamed the heist at least in part on an art thief who once stole a statue from a gallery and then tried to sell it back.
The violin, which was built in 1715 by the renowned Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari and valued at $5m (€3.6m), was found hidden in a suitcase in the attic of a man who police said was unaware the instrument was in his home.
Three people have been arrested in the case.
“It appears we had a local criminal who had an interest in art theft and was smart enough to develop a plan for a robbery,” said Flynn. “Beyond that, we don’t know what his motive was.”
The violin, which police said appeared to be in good condition, was stolen late last month from a concert violinist who was shocked with a stun gun. His attacker grabbed the violin and hopped into a waiting vehicle.
Police traced the stun gun to 36-year-old barber Universal Knowledge Allah, while a citizen’s tip led them to Salah Jones, the 41-year-old man convicted of stealing a $25,000 statue from a gallery at Milwaukee’s posh Pfister Hotel in 1995. Officers had the men under surveillance before arresting them, along with a 32-year-old woman.
Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm said that he expected to charge at least one of the suspects this weekend. He said that charges were delayed while prosecutors negotiated with one suspect for the return of the violin.
The suspect led police to the home of an acquaintance, who had allowed the suspect to store a suitcase in his attic.
It’s not clear what the suspects planned to do with the violin. Such high-value instruments are almost always well-documented with photographs and easily identified, said David Bonsey, a New York-based violin maker.
“There’s virtually no place that a violin like this can be taken and fenced,” Bonsey said. “You can’t take it to a pawn shop.”
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