Prosecutors List Artwork, Memorabilia Lost to Theft Ring

Nine are charged in crimes over more than 20 years
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 17, 2023 3:45 PM CDT
Prosecutors List Artwork, Memorabilia Lost to Theft Ring
The Everhart Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in November 2005.   (Michael J. Mullen/The Times-Tribune via AP, File)

Federal authorities have announced charges against a ring of nine people for thefts of millions of dollars' worth of paintings, sports memorabilia, and other valuables, including an Andy Warhol silkscreen, a Jackson Pollock painting, and nine World Series rings belonging to the late Yankees Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. The thefts took place over more than two decades at 20 museums and institutions across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and North Dakota, a US attorney in Pennsylvania said Thursday. Investigators believe some of the sports memorabilia had been melted down, Gerard Karam said at a news conference, the AP reports.

It was unclear which items would be returned to their owners or to the museums, but authorities said some of those valuables had been recovered. Eight of the nine people named as part of the theft ring have turned themselves in, Karam said. At least five had already entered into preliminary plea agreements on charges including theft of major artwork and conspiracy to dispose of major objects of cultural heritage, according to court records. The suspects are in their late 40s to early 50s and are Pennsylvania residents. Karam said the ninth suspect, 53-year-old Nicholas Dombek, is considered a fugitive.

The indictments allege the thieves transported the memorabilia and valuables and would melt the gold items down into transportable discs that were sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars—but for way less than many of the items were worth. Court documents also allege that Dombeck destroyed a painting by Jasper Cropsey by burning it to avoid the stolen artwork titled Upper Hudson being used as evidence against him. Some of the thefts happened nearly 20 years ago, including the 2005 theft from the Everhart Museum in Scranton, where the thieves shattered a glass door in the back of the building. They stole a 1949 oil-on-canvas painting by Jackson Pollock, Springs Winter, then worth an estimated $11.6 million, and a silkscreen by Andy Warhol titled Le Grande Passion then worth an estimated $15,000.

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Details of the stolen items included, per the AP:

  • A jersey from New York Giants pitcher and Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson, as well as two contracts he had signed that were on display at Keystone College.
  • Nine World Series rings, seven other rings, and two MVP plaques belonging to Yogi Berra. The World Series rings are believed to have been melted down and destroyed.
  • A Hickok Belt—solid gold and encrusted in jewels—and MVP plaque from the Roger Maris Museum in Fargo, North Dakota.
  • A Hickok Belt and US Amateur Trophy awarded to Ben Hogan, from the USGA Golf Museum and Library.
  • 12 trophies awarded to golfing great Art Wall Jr. that had been on display at the Country Club of Scranton, Pennsylvania, believed to have been melted down and destroyed.
  • $300,000 worth of trophies from the National Harness Racing Museum in Goshen, New York.

(More museum theft stories.)

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