Federal charges have been brought against nine people accused of stealing millions of dollars worth of sports memorabilia and fine art, including an Andy Warhol silkscreen and a Jackson Pollock painting, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania Gerard M. Karam announced Thursday.
The thievery ring operated for more than two decades at 20 museums and stores across the East Coast United States and parts of the Midwest. According to Karam’s statement, prosecutors believe silver and gold sports memorabilia, including nine of Yogi Berra’s 10 World Series rings, had been melted down into portable discs and sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
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Eight of the nine accused people turned themselves in to authorities and at least five have entered preliminary plea agreements on charges of theft of art and conspiracy to dispose of major objects of cultural heritage, according to court documents reviewed by the Associated Press. The suspects are Pennsylvania residents. The ninth suspect, 53-year-old Nicholas Dombek, is still sought by police.
One of the earliest thefts was in 2002 at the Everhart Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where the suspects nabbed Pollock’s 1949 painting Springs Winter, then valued at $11.6 million, and a silkscreen by Warhol, titled Le Grande Passion, which was listed in the indictment as being worth $100,000.
“About three years ago, a forensic link at one of the theft sites discovered by a local police agency led us to forensic evidence that linked several of these thefts,” Karam said.