Police investigate expensive art heist

September 29, 2009 5:33:29 PM PDT
Big time art heists don't just happen in the movies, they happen in Northern California, too. Two Pebble Beach men are out millions of dollars in rare paintings, and Monterey County police are trying to solve a major crime.

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The victims say some of the priceless paintings that were stolen include works by Jackson Pollock, Van Gogh and Rembrandt. The thief or thieves broke into the pair's rental home which they have been living in as their new residence is being constructed.

"The first pieces of art that I noticed were gone were the two Rembrandts which were on the floor and the Renoir," said heist victim Ralph Kennaugh.

Kennaugh and Benjamin Amadio say they returned to their Pebble Beach home to find more than 80 of their art pieces gone. Several pieces from Rembrandt, Renoir, Gothe and Van Gogh were taken.

Investigators have put the price tag of the heist at $27 million, based on a 2002 insurance appraisal. But the pair says since then, they have acquired several more pieces, including a Jackson Pollock which they say is worth $20 million to $60 million.

"They came through a window that was broken and a lock that was broken on the house," said Amadio. "And it's actually the first time since the artwork moved from Boston to California that it has been without security and insurance."

Kennaugh, a retired Harvard doctor, and Amadio moved to Pebble Beach just two months ago. They believe the thieves knew about their impressive art collection and had a buyer or buyers arranged beforehand.

"They must have known what was in the collection and I think they probably had a buyer for some of the things that were in the collection before they broke in because I don't think it's that easy for them to broker such artwork," said Kennaugh. "It's a small community and everyone knows the pieces."

The pair is offering a $1 million reward for the return of at least 13 art pieces, undamaged.

"They not only took the artwork, they took a computer, hard drives? they took the provenance for the artwork and business records," said Amadio.

The pair is also offering a $5 million reward for the arrest and conviction of the burglar or burglars.

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