It was a call the Los Angeles Police Department had been awaiting for 25 years.
This summer, an auctioneer from Southern California contacted detectives. He claimed to recognise pictures of stolen items listed on the department’s website. The LAPD had apprehended two suspects after an international investigation. Though the stolen items appeared to have disappeared without a trace.
The treasure trove of art included paintings by Pablo Picasso and his contemporary Joan Mirò. They were all signed by former US presidents Ronald Reagan and Howard Taft. The tip off led the LAPD to reopen Operation Demetra in June, comprising of Lieutenant Mel Vergara and detectives from the original 1990s investigation.
The investigators have recovered more than 100 paintings, sculptures, furniture and antique guns and determined that at least some fo the art dates back to the 1990s break-ins. Detectives announced the discovery this week as they attempt to locate the rightful owners. The department has created a website with pictures of the all the recovered items. They can be of real help for the burglers’ victims lay claim to them.
The tune of the robbery
“We are in the process of identifying the specific art, artists and how much it might be worth,” she said.
The string of burglaries saw hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of art work stolen, including one which had a market value of around $60,000 (£49,000) at the time of the theft.
Capt Carranza did not reveal the name of the auctioneer who tipped off her department but said the artwork had come to the auction house through a relative of one of the original suspects in the case. Ms Carranza said police believe he left the stolen artwork to a relative as part of an inheritance. Did this individual know they were receiving stolen property? Police have not revealed the identity of the second suspect as their investigation is still ongoing.