Art heist victims named prime suspects

October 6, 2009 5:33:23 PM PDT
There was another twist Tuesday in a heist that stunned the art world. The Monterey County Sheriff's Department says all their leads point back to the two collectors who claim to be the victims.

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Investigators say the whole story looks suspicious. They say they have gotten very little, if any, help from the two men who reported the case. They also say this is only one of the problems they are having with this apparent crime. The collectors, on the other hand, say that much of the stolen art is uninsured. They ask what motive they could have to report such an elaborate story.

The drama began unfolding on September 25th with the claims of two art collectors who had recently moved from Boston to Pebble Beach.

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

The reported art heist initially included 13 works valued as much as $80 million, but mostly uninsured. The masterpieces included Van Gogh, Henry Matisse and a rare Jackson Pollack.

The Monterey County Sheriff's Department voiced their suspicions Tuesday.

Commander Mike Richards believes it could be a hoax. "There's something that's not right with this case," he said Tuesday.

Aside from repeated inconsistencies, investigators say one problem is the window where the burglars were reported to have broken into the home. They say that what they found there were merely tool marks on the screen.

"We've investigated the alleged point of entry and determined that there was no entry made at that spot," Richard said.

Collector Angelo Amadio accused the sheriff's department Tuesday of being either corrupt or incompetent. Insurance agent David St. John also issued a statement Tuesday, saying he "visited the residence several times prior to the theft and personally saw the artworks together with their provenance which amounts to the paper trail of the authenticity of the artwork."

Investigators say they welcome any proof the collection was in fact real. At this point, their best suspects are the alleged victims themselves. Richards says they are looking into possible charges that range from filing a false report, to possible charges stemming from a criminal enterprise. He would not elaborate on the latter.

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