Collectors seek to prove stolen art exists

October 9, 2009 7:41:46 PM PDT
If the claims are true, it is the second largest art heist in U.S. history. The Monterey County Sheriff's Department is casting doubt on the story surrounding the theft of more than a dozen valuable masterpieces.

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A news conference Friday was supposed to confirm the existence of millions of dollars in stolen artwork from a Pebble Beach home.

"Some of these pieces were insured in Boston by insurance company AIG," said attorney Vicki St. John.

The proof the attorney provided included pictures of a number of masterpieces and descriptions from Wikipedia, but no evidence of ownership.

The art collectors who reported their private collections stolen on September 25 were noticeably absent from the news conference. However, ABC7 found one of them just yards away eating lunch. Angelo Benjamin Amadio says the collection was appraised for more than $27 million in 2002.

"There was a policy offer," said Amadio. That means an insurance company spent tens of thousands of dollars verifying that the artwork was authentic, verifying its current value, and that's enough to prove it is real and it did exist on its own."

An insurance broker says there was about $70,000 worth of art insured through AIG and Farmer's, and he was in the process of insuring the entire collection.

"In this particular case, I was trying to work with Lloyd's of London," said insurance broker David St. John. "And there feedback right away was we don't even want to talk about it until you can show us evidence that there's an alarm system [and] the house is totally secure."

The landlord for the rental property in Pebble Beach apparently held up the installation of the security system.

Monterey County Sheriff's investigators held their own news conference last week to say they are not convinced there was an art heist.

"Bottom line is this is a simple investigation, and it could be made a lot easier with the cooperation of the victims," said Commander Mike Richards.

The art collectors say they have now turned over everything they have to investigators. The attorney says a polygraph test requested by the sheriff's department will not take place.

"Polygraphs are not allowed in court because they are unreliable," said attorney St. John. "If I'm nervous or drank too much caffeine, that needle is going to look like this (motions hand up and down)."

Amadio actually had more he wanted to tell reporters, but his insurance agent came in and told him to zip it.

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