LAUTH INVESTIGATIONS INTERNATIONAL INC.
Indiana Office : 201 North Illinois Street, 16th Floor
South Tower, Indianapolis, IN 46204
Colorado Office : 1550 Larimer Street, Suite 905
Denver, CO, 80202
Artsy Private Investigators – Recovering Stolen Art
By Indianapolis Private Investigator, Lauth Investigations International, Inc., Jan 19, 2012
Scope of the Problem
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the criminal enterprise of stolen art is a continuing problem
that is growing and estimates up to 6 billion in losses annually. The perpetrators of art theft can be small time crooks
to sophisticated thieves who meticulously plan their crimes, often trafficking stolen items through an underground
network of buyers. Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, an archaeologist and art theft expert who manages the Art Theft program
at the FBI indicates more than half of art related thefts occurs from a private homes.
Referred to as Art and Cultural Property Crimes, stolen works can include items from private owners, governments,
museums or protected archaeological sites to include artifacts, statues, decorative arts, fine arts, scientific and
musical instruments, coins, stamps, ethnographic objects, antique jewelry and gems, historical maps, manuscripts and
other documents of historical significance.
Art theft continues to increase due to increased market demand, open borders, improved transportation methods and
even political instability throughout the world.
In 2004, the FBI established the FBI Art Crime Team comprised of 13 special agents that have received specialized
training and responsible for investigating art and cultural property theft in specifically assigned geographic regions
worldwide. In addition, the Department of Justice has assigned 3 trial attorneys to provide prosecutorial support.
The Art Crime Team Unit also works in cooperation with international authorities and maintains the National Stolen Art
File (NSAF), a computerized database of stolen property reported by US and international authorities throughout the
world. NSAF maintains the physical descriptions, images and case information of items reported serving as an
investigative tool and analytical database.
The NSAF online database is available to the public and contains information regarding the description, title, maker,
and period it was created but does not contain police reports or investigative information. It can be accessed at
National Stolen Art File (NSAF).
Despite international resources and specialized federal units, international art theft continues to increase and
investigations can last years. According to the Public Broadcast Service (PBS), as many as 90 percent of art thefts
going unsolved, stating the additional difficulties investigating stolen works is commonly attributed to poor
documentation of the item, an unregulated market and failure of collectors and curators to submit reports or
descriptive data into existing databases.
The Art Loss Register (ALR) is another international resource with locations in the United Kingdom, United States,
Germany, Netherlands and France that serves as an international database where owners of art works can report a
lost or stolen item or register legitimate ownership of valuable possessions. It is also a public searchable
database that buyers or investigators can utilize is as a tool to inquire if an item has been reported stolen or
lost. ALR also offers registrants expert provenance research and investigative services by qualified art historians.
The Getty Museum developed the Object ID in 1993, creating an international standard for proper documentation and
recordkeeping for valuable objects to be used as a preventive measure to theft. The manual, Introduction to Object
ID: Guidelines for making records that describe art, antiques, and antiquities can be found in libraries.
More recently, The J. Paul Getty Trust published Collections Theft Response Procedures manual used by international
authorities, museums, collectors and libraries throughout the world. The guide helps those responsible for works by
providing a checklist and guidelines addressing preventive measures and effectively responding to theft. The manual
includes how to properly report stolen works, work with authorities, insurance companies and private detectives.
For more information you may visit The J. Paul Getty Trust Museum.
Private Detectives Specializing in Art Recovery
Art thieve investigators can be hired by private owners, financial institutions, insurance companies, museums, art
dealers and collectors to investigate and recover trafficked art and archaeological items and forgeries. For private
investigators to effectively investigate and recover stolen works it is necessary to work cooperatively with federal
and international authorities, develop relationships with those within the international art community as well as
becoming familiar with the underground networks of unscrupulous art dealers responsible for trafficking and sales
of stolen items. Working independently but cooperatively with authorities, private investigators can provide rapid
response theft recovery and significantly aide in the prosecution in the dark world of art thievery.
Knowledgeable thieves can sell stolen works for millions while the smaller time thief who commonly steals items from
residential homes may sell a stolen work for far less than it value and far less cautious in the effort to make a sale.
Priceless works of art have been located in Manhattan apartments, at garage sales and even on Craigslist. Many stolen
works have been sold to private buyers without the purchaser having knowledge the items is even stolen.
Private investigators specializing in art theft recovery have a desire to preserve history but also knowledge in
and international antiquity investigation techniques, customs and international law, insurance claims, appraisal,
forgery analysis, criminal and civil art law, conservation, and art financial services.
Working with private investigators can also prevent victimization when purchasing valuable works as investigators
can assist with due diligence and provenance by analyzing and verifying information, collecting historical data on
items and helping coordinate sales and purchases between parties assisting both the buyer and seller by reducing
risk of future potential criminal or civil litigation.
Federal Bureau of Investigation http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/vc_majorthefts/arttheft
J. Paul Getty Trust www.getty.edu/museum
Author - Kym L. Pasqualini
Founder, National Center for Missing Adults
Lauth Investigations International, Inc.
201 N. Illinois St., 16th Fl.-South Tower
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Please contact Indianapolis Private Investigator, Thomas Lauth, for any investigations needed at 800.889.3463 or visit www.lauthinvestigations.com