Sunday, March 3, 2024

Rare violin stolen


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MILWAUKEE (AP) – Violin virtuoso Frank Almond was walking to his car after an evening performance at the Wisconsin Lutheran College when someone jumped out of a van, shocked him with a stun gun and seized the rare and extremely valuable Stradivarius on loan to him.
The robber got back into the waiting vehicle, which sped off.
Almond, who had been knocked to the ground, wasn’t seriously hurt. But he was devastated by the loss of the violin, which was crafted in 1715 and has been appraised for insurance purposes at $5 million.
The brazen January 27 crime set off a frantic search and raised questions about why someone would steal an item that would be nearly impossible to sell. Would-be buyers in the tiny market for rare violins would certainly know it was stolen, and keeping it in hiding would mean never getting to show it off.
The case in which Almond kept the instrument was found, and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra announced someone was offering $100 000 for the instrument’s safe return. But there weren’t any breaks in the robbery until this week, when prosecutors confirmed yesterday that three people had been arrested in connection with the theft.
However, Police Chief Ed Flynn said at an afternoon news conference that authorities haven’t recovered the violin, and he hoped the reward would induce the public to come forward with tips.
“It’s a reasonable supposition that it’s still in our jurisdiction,” Flynn said. He declined to go into detail.
Kent Lovern, a Milwaukee County assistant district attorney, said he didn’t expect a charging decision would be made before today.
Flynn said the suspects were two men, ages 41 and 36, and a 32-year-old woman. He wouldn’t say how police tracked them down, but he said there was physical evidence linking them to the crime.
Estimates vary for the number of Stradivarius violins that still exist, said Lisbeth Butler, the secretary of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers. Most experts believe that 600 to 650 remain, she said.


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