A stolen 300-year old Lipinski Strad violin was recovered after Milwaukee police arrested three people on Thursday.
On January 27 around 10:20pm, the violin was taken from Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond as he was walking to his car after a performance. According to CNN, an unknown assailant used a stun gun on Almond and when he dropped the instrument, the attacker grabbed the violin and and jumped into a waiting vehicle driven by a second suspect.
The anonymous donor offered a $100,000 reward for the safe return of the rare instrument to to orchestra. It is worth $5 million.
But yesterday, after tracing the stun gun to Universal Knowledge Allah, a 36-year old barber, and following tips which led to prior arts criminal, 41-year old Salah Jones, the violin was recovered from the home of a 32-year old female acquaintance who allowed Jones to store it in a suitcase in the attic.
"We're confident the subjects in custody are the subjects responsible for this," said G.B. Jones, acting special agent in charge with the FBI in Milwaukee.
The instrument was recovered in good condition but experts are waiting to properly examine it.
“It emphasises the fact that you cannot get rid of these instruments,” said Bruno Price, a New York-based expert on rare instruments. “It’s impossible to resell them – so it’s a silly crime to even try.”
The Stradivari violin is on loan to Almond by its owner. Both parties benefit from this arrangement in that most artists cannot afford such expensive instruments and use of the instrument keeps it in good shape for the owner and can increase the value.
The owners had found the instrument after clearing the estate of a deceased relative and asked Almond to come give his opinion of it. According to The Daily Mail, they showed the concertmaster paperwork and old programs and led him to a bank vault where the violin had been stored for over 20 years.
"It turned out that they had put it in a bank vault - a regular bank vault at M & I Bank, which happened to be about, I'd say, 100 yards from the concert hall," Almond said in an interview last year. "It was ironic - I'd been playing all the time in this hall, and there was a 1715 Strad, down the street in a bank vault."
This particular violin was made from Antonio Stradivari in 1715 and is one of only 650 left in the world. It was previously owned by composer Giuseppe Tartini and survived the Cuban revolution, during which its sale helped a Havana musician escape to the U.S.
Almond is thankful for its recovery and also for the emotional support he has received from the community in the past week.
"It was truly heartening during what was obviously a very difficult time. I could not have imagined a better outcome for this particular chapter in the violin's life and look forward to having it in my hands as soon as possible," he told the Chicago Tribune.
The police planned to return the stolen violin to Almond on Thursday evening.
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