The Great Violin Heist of Milwaukee: Stun Gun Thief Nabs $3 Million Treasure

Stradivarius Violin Stolen by Stun Gun from Frank Almond
A Stradivarius violin in 2009
Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty

updated 01/30/2014 at 12:15 PM EST

originally published 01/31/2014 09:15AM

It was a classic heist with a high-tech twist: A priceless, 300-year-old Stradivarius violin, stolen with a stun gun.

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond was attacked Monday evening with a stun gun and robbed of the instrument, which had been on indefinite loan from unspecified owners.

Almond had just finished a concert at Wisconsin Lutheran College around 10:30 p.m. when two armed suspects, a man and a woman, used a taser on him, causing him to drop the violin and fall to the ground, reports Fox6 News.

After the robbery, Almond was left lying in a parking lot by the rear of the school while the thief fled to a nearby minivan driven by an accomplice, reports the Journal-Sentinel. The violin case was later found on Milwaukee's north side, police told the paper.



James Ratcliffe, director of Recoveries & General Counsel at the Art Loss Register in London, is quoted as saying, "I think that violence like that seen in this case has been relatively rare. Instead the thefts are often from homes or vehicles, or whilst an instrument is momentarily unattended."

Robert K. Wittman, founder of the FBI's National Art Crime Team and author of Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures, told the Journal-Sentinel that it's unlikely the thieves had a buyer in mind, and that they'll probably face difficulties selling the instrument because the market for high-end antique instruments is so small and shrinks exponentially when the item in question is stolen.

"I think it's probably 90 percent odds are that it will be seen again," Wittman said. "Now, the real question is how long. When will that happen? That we don't know."

One possibly useful benchmark: In July 2013, a 300-year-old Stradivarius valued at over $1 million was recovered in Britain. It had been missing for more than two years.

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