INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FORCULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
Reposted from FBI.gov
Nearly 30 years after an elderly New York couple’s 1911 painting by Marc Chagall was stolen from their Manhattan home, the modernist oil-on-canvas work is being returned to the family’s estate.
The painting, entitled Othello and Desdemona, was recovered last year after a Maryland man contacted the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The man’s repeated efforts to consign the painting had been rebuffed by a Washington, D.C., gallery owner who was suspicious about the lack of paperwork supporting the painting’s authenticity and provenance. The gallery owner suggested the man call law enforcement, which is how it became an FBI investigation.
“We took the case from there,” said Special Agent Marc Hess, one of a handful of FBI investigators on the Bureau’s specialized Art Crime Team. Hess said the investigation led to the man’s home in Maryland, where he had stored the painting in his attic for years in a custom box he crafted out of a door jamb and plywood. Hand-scrawled on the top of box were the words “Misc. High School artwork.”
According to court documents, the Maryland man had obtained the painting in the late 1980s or early 1990s from the man who stole the Chagall in New York in 1988. The thief, it turned out, was a worker in the Upper East Side building where Ernest and Rose Heller lived in an apartment surrounded by paintings and sculptures by renowned artists like Renoir, Picasso, Hopper, and Chagall. Several other works of art also disappeared in the heist.
“It was an inside job,” Hess said. “A person who had regular access to the building was stealing from apartments while the tenants were away.”
Shortly afterward, the thief met with the Maryland man in Virginia to try to sell the painting, court documents show. The Maryland man found a potential buyer, but the deal collapsed when he learned he wasn’t going to receive a cut of the proceeds. The Maryland man kept possession of the painting and stashed it in his attic for years. He brought it out in 2011—and again in January 2017—in his fruitless appeals to the D.C. gallery owner to exhibit and try to sell the stolen art.
“Well documented and known art is very hard to move once it has been stolen,” said Supervisory Special Agent Tim Carpenter of the FBI’s Art Crime Team. “Gallery owners are our first line of defense in identifying pieces of art that do not have the appropriate documentation and should be brought to the attention of law enforcement.”
The Hellers, who bought the painting in the 1920s, have both passed away. The artwork, which shows Shakespeare’s titular Othello holding a sword and looking at his bride, Desdemona, lying on a bed, was painted by Chagall when the Belarusian painter lived in Paris. In 1967, the Hellers’ painting was on exhibit at the Kunsthaus Zurich in Geneva, Switzerland.
“They went on vacation back in 1988,” Hess said. “They returned, and this work of art—along with several others—was missing.”
The statute of limitations for the theft has expired, so no charges are pending against the individual who initially stole the painting, nor the individual who kept it. The Maryland man is not named in court filings. The suspected thief in the case was convicted in federal court and served time on charges related to selling stolen property, including art from other apartment buildings.
“The investigation into the other missing paintings continues,” Hess said. The Chagall painting, which until recently was still stored in the makeshift wooden box, will be returned to the Hellers’ estate, which plans to place it on auction. Proceeds will reimburse the insurance company that paid the theft claim years ago and be directed to several non-profit organizations supported by the estate, including an artists’ colony in New Hampshire.
“As the FBI returns this painting to the estate of its proper owners, we do so with the purpose of preserving history,” said Washington Field Office Assistant Director in Charge Nancy McNamara. “This piece of artwork is of significance not just for its monetary value, but for its place in the world of art and culture. The FBI continues to commit investigative resources to recover cultural property.”
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Reposted from aus.com
The first cellphone was developed in 1973 by Motorola Researcher, Martin Cooper. Heavy and clunky, that first device was a far cry from the sleek, versatile mobile phones of today. Since Cooper’s invention, companies have competed to produce more portable technology and offer better connectivity. And they have largely succeeded. In fact, as a result, worldwide today, 2.53 billion people own smartphones. According to a Pew Research study, 95 percent of Americans own a cellphone of some kind, with 77 percent of the devices qualifying as "smart." With smartphone use at an all-time high, it’s time to examine the myriad ways the device can aid disaster preparation, survival and recovery.
If you follow the handy hints above, you should have access to your cellphone’s cached pages once a disaster occurs. Remember, the rule of thumb during emergencies is to rely on mobile phones only for emergencies. In other words, call family and friends to check in. But leave channels open for first responders. This is also important since it could take time for power to be restored.
We hope you have assembled a Go Bag. But if you didn’t put together an emergency kit prior to the disaster, you can use several of your phone’s tools in place of common supplies:
Incorporating the latest technology into your disaster preparedness plans will help mobilize recovery efforts. The most obvious benefit of mobile devices is in providing the ability to communicate from most locations around the country and around the world. As mentioned in a recent blog on "Scientific American", even when a clear phone signal is not available, texting could be a viable option for communicating with family and friends or emergency personnel.
Reposted from St.GeorgeNews.com
After a child threw a ball at a fire sprinkler in the St. George Children’s Museum, water rained from the ceiling and caused thousands of dollars in damage Monday.
The “very zealous young guest” knocked the cage off the sprinkler head, which caused water to flood the basketball room in the lower floor of the St. George Children’s Museum on Main Street, Executive Director Marnie Workman said. The fire alarms were also triggered throughout the building and other guests in the building were evacuated.
The St. George Fire Department arrived, switched off the valves and reset the alarms as workers removed benches and other exhibit items from the room.
“And now cleanup begins, which will be quite a feat” Workman said. “We’ve got a lot of water to suck up, and all the floor tiles to remove and carpets to dry and everything to reassemble.”
It will take a lot of time to repair, she said.
“This hasn’t happened for a couple of years, so we’re ready for another adventure,” Workman said.
Reposted from the Washington Post
A former volunteer at a small Missouri museum has been charged with stealing thousands of dollars’ worth of Civil War and World War I artifacts.
A warrant was issued Monday for the arrest of 38-year-old Terry Cockrell, a 2010 Sedalia mayoral candidate who volunteered for eight years at the Pettis County Museum before moving last fall to Coffeyville, Kansas. He’s charged with two felony counts of stealing $750 or more. No attorney is listed for him in online court records.
Police say some of the items missing from the museum, including a surgical kit, firearms and a sword, were tracked to a Tennessee collector, who bought them last summer without realizing they were stolen. Museum co-curator Charles Wise says display cases had been rearranged to conceal the thefts, which weren’t reported until last month, The Sedalia Democrat reports.
Sedalia police Det. Jill Green said in the probable cause statement that Cockrell falsely told the collector that he received the items as a gift from a neighbor who gave them in return for a favor. Green said Cockrell was tied to the theft by a form he signed that stated he was the true owner of the sword and had obtained it legitimately.
Green said Cockrell initially said he had been given the artifacts by someone who died 20 years ago but later admitted to removing them from display case. The collector is helping to return as many of the items as possible after re-selling some of the antiques to buyers in other states. A revolver and a World War I era flare pistol also were reported stolen but weren’t sold to the collector.
The Pettis County Historical Society, which operates the museum, is now considering new measures to prevent future thefts. Wise said that the museum didn’t regularly check its inventory in the past and fully trusted its volunteers.
Security and management practitioner, advisor and educator Dennis Shepp, MBA, CPP, CFE, PCI, CPOI has been elected as the Chairman of the Board of Directors.
The International Foundation for Protection Officers today announced that Mr. Dennis Shepp has been elected as Chairman of the Board of Directors. He replaces Mr. Rick Daniels, MA (Criminology), CPP, CFE who has stepped down from the position of Chairman but has agreed to continue to serve as an IFPO Board Member.
Mr. Shepp has extensive experience with large training organizations, colleges and universities with the implementation of accredited training, a corporate university concept and professional development programs with professional certifications. He recently was the professional development advisor for a major international energy company based in the Middle East, managing a complete curriculum re-engineering project. Dennis has been a member of teaching faculty for colleges and universities, working with internationally recognized accreditation programs and security training curriculum development. Dennis joined ASIS International in 1983 as a pioneering member of the first chapter in Canada, Edmonton 156. He has been an avid volunteer at the chapter, regional and international levels and represented ASIS HQ as faculty on various educational programs.
Dennis has over 35-years’ experience as a security management practitioner in the Middle East and North America. Dennis has an MBA from Royal Roads University, is a Life Member CPP and CFE. Former Chairman Mr. Rick Daniels comments, “It has been a privilege to serve as IFPO Chairman for so many years. Now, as we move forward with new growth initiatives and revisions/expansions to our texts and training materials, fresh new leadership at the top is more important than ever. I can think of few people in our industry as qualified as Dennis Shepp to take on the IFPO Chairman role. Dennis has been my friend for close to three decades. He is a thoughtful, energetic and dynamic personality. I look forward to working with Dennis, Sandi, the Board and IFPO Supporters around the globe in the coming years. These will be exciting times.”
Reposted from The Star
Sticky fingers at two of Toronto’s attractions show how institutions need to balance accessibility with security.
If you have ever seen a heist movie, you know what art thieves are supposed to look like and the means required to pull off a caper. These crimes are committed by debonair con artists who use elaborate schemes of misdirection and cutting-edge technology to outwit the authorities. Think “The Thomas Crown Affair” or “Ocean’s Twelve”.
In real life, in Toronto at least, the suspects look like your buddy’s grandmother or a schlubby guy in a tracksuit, allegedly ripping off museum pieces and getting away — with neither cunning nor fuss. Recently, police have asked for the public’s help in apprehending two suspects in separate cases who brazenly helped themselves to museum pieces during regular business hours and left with items worth thousands of dollars.
On March 12, police say, a woman walked out of the Gardiner Museum with a rock with an estimated value of $22,000. Part of Yoko Ono’s hands-on exhibition The Riverbed, the rock is inscribed with the words “Love Yourself” in Ono’s handwriting. The investigation is still open, but police have posted photos of the suspect from the museum’s security camera, last seen walking south on Queen’s Park.
On Feb. 11 at 12:30 p.m., police say, someone walked into the Spirit of Hockey store (affiliated with the Hockey Hall of Fame), let himself into a storage closet that opened up to a display case, and swiped two championship rings worth thousands of dollars that were donated to the institution by a recent inductee, retired NHL star Paul Kariya. Security cameras showed the suspect leaving in a rented U-Haul panel van. Toronto police recently laid charges in connection with the theft, but the rings have not yet been recovered.
In terms of thrills and glamour, these incidents fall far short of the Hollywood version.
“It’s hard to tell whether these were premeditated or just crimes of opportunity,” says Joshua Knelman, who tracked the real shadowy art underworld in his 2012 book Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives through the Secret World of Stolen Art. “It’s almost like ‘file under SNL skit.’ It doesn’t to me fit into a real art thief’s style. Certainly, everything is worth something, but this is not The Thomas Crown Affair. This seems like the opposite.”
But sometimes it helps to not look the part.
“It shows how far someone who is determined and looks like they belong can get,” said one Toronto police detective in the major crimes unit, who asked not to be named.
While the items have yet to be recovered, it’s believed that thieves will have a hard time flipping them for cash right now.
“The one thing they have in common is that both are celebrity memorabilia thefts. It’s like pop-culture theft,” says Knelman. “The problem with both of these items is that once an item has been publicized as being stolen as widely as these two have, they become increasingly more difficult to sell.”
The incident at the Gardiner highlights another issue for museums and galleries: balancing security with accessibility. These institutions are doing whatever they can to bring in audiences, and for the Gardiner, the star power and attraction of an exhibit by Yoko Ono is an obvious draw — the museum says it’s been a hit, with attendance more than twice what they usually see at this time of year — as does the fact that it is interactive, which is one reason the crime was relatively easy to pull off.
“People can actually go up and interact with it, pick up the rock, say a prayer, meditate, that sort of thing, and then put the rock back,” said Gary Long, a police spokesperson, to the Canadian Press. “I guess this is something that Yoko Ono believes in, the interactive part of it. So it’s an unusual circumstance.”
Interactive exhibits are becoming more popular. The theft reminds Knelman of an incident involving another superstar artist. In 2010, Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds was presented at London’s Tate Modern, featuring thousands of porcelain sunflower seeds filling Turbine Hall. At first patrons could walk on the art and interact with it, but it was eventually put behind barriers, in part due to all the porcelain dust that was kicked up by gallery-goers. On top of that, some people helped themselves to the art.
Ai Weiwei “basically put thousands and thousands of sunflower seeds in Turbine Hall, and people basically walked away with them. I know people who walked away with them,” says Knelman.
The chance to handle art in places like museums, where visitors are usually not allowed to touch anything, is part of what makes the interactivity exciting, even if it does open the door wider to pilfering.
“Yoko Ono is a pioneer of participatory art, who inspires creativity and community, both of which are on stunning display right now, in The Riverbed,” says Rachel Weiner, spokesperson for the Gardiner Museum. “There is always going to be a risk involved in a participatory or an interactive exhibition, more so than a display at a traditional museum exhibition, where the objects are displayed behind ropes or glass. But the rewards, the potential for more meaningful and lasting art experiences are immense.
“So while there are these risks, and museums have this difficult task of balancing their stewardship responsibilities with the goals of increasing engagement and accessibility, more and more, cultural institutions and artists are going out on a limb and putting their trust in visitors, for the sake of deeper engagement and a more meaningful, lasting art experience.”
It is all part of an overall institutional movement to be much more welcoming to patrons. A perfect example is the new Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto, which will have a free, first-floor common area with participatory activities for visitors when it opens in May. In an interview by the Star’s visual arts critic Murray Whyte, the new CEO noted that it will have more guides than security guards.
“We’re hosting you, we’re not policing you. That’s really, really important,” said Heidi Reitmaier, CEO of MOCA.
The police will have to content themselves with watching on those ever-present security cameras.
Reposted from The Local
Thieves held up the Centrale Montemartini museum in the south of Rome on Sunday, making off with some €10,000.
Two men armed with handguns approached the ticket office at around 5 pm, while a few visitors were still queueing to enter, Rai News reported.
One of the robbers aimed his gun at a member of staff while the other forced another employee to lead him to the museum's safe. The thieves dragged the safe to the exit, where a third accomplice was waiting in a get-away car.
No one was reported injured.
Police are using witnesses' account and CCTV footage to try to identify the men, whose faces were covered for the heist.
The Centrale Montermartini was closed on Monday as usual. Housed inside a former power station in the industrial-turned-trendy neighbourhood of Ostiense, the public museum displays ancient sculpture and artefacts that belong to the municipality of Rome.
Nothing was stolen from its collection in Sunday's robbery.
More daring art heists in Italy have seen thieves make off with works worth millions of euros. In 2015, a gang stole masterpieces by Rubens and Tintoretto from a museum in Verona with the help of a security guard, while several precious paintings have been snatched from churches.
And in January, jewels worth several thousands of euros and owned by Qatar's ruling family were stolen from a show at the Doge's Palace in Venice.
Reposted from the Salmon Arm Observer
Sometime last week a thief rolled away with two pieces of Princeton’s heritage – carriage wheels that have long been part of the outdoor display at the Princeton and District Museum.
A reward is being offered for information leading to the return of the bright red wheels, and museum board president George Elliott is puzzled.
“What was the point?” he asked in an interview with The Spotlight. “What message are you trying to get across? It really wasn’t a well executed plan to steal something so high profile.”
The wheels, which were chained to a railing, likely disappeared sometime between April 4 and April 5, and museum directors were tipped to their disappearance by a historical society volunteer.
Elliott admitted he hadn’t noticed they were gone, when he entered the building Thursday. “Well, you know how it is sometimes, when you walk by something 300 times.”
Elliott said he can’t imagine what someone would do with the stolen artifacts.
“It’s not likely someone is suddenly going to put it on Princeton Buy and Sell and you’re not going to see it in the Black Press [classifieds.]”
While RCMP have been contacted, Elliot said he is sure the board is more concerned with recovering the wheels than with punishing an offender.
The theft has also been reported on Facebook.
“The pressure is out there locally. If it was somebody local who chose to ‘borrow’ them and they would choose just as quietly to return them then everything would be done,” he said.
“If they were to anonymously show up on the front steps I don’t think we would be terribly upset. In fact I think we would be quite happy.”
Reposted from 1075KOOLFM
A fire at the Simcoe County Museum did about $50,000 in damage, while Springwater Fire Services is being credited for minimizing the damage. The fire was reported around 2:00 Saturday afternoon, with 37 firefighters responding to the Highway 26 facility. Everyone had already evacuated safely before emergency crews got there, and thermal imaging was used to find the flames within the walls and ceiling of the building.
The fire was knocked down within 40 minutes, while the cause has been listed as accidental due to ongoing construction activity at the museum.
The fire damage is reported to be a small section of the Living and Working gallery’s military section, with one WWI billboard suffering some water damage, with some minor smoke damage scattered among nearby exhibits.
Reposted from ABC News
France has flagged more than 78,000 people as security threats in a database intended to let European police share information on the continent's most dangerous residents — more than all other European countries put together — according to an analysis by The Associated Press.
A German parliamentarian, Andrej Hunko, was the first to raise the alarm about potential misuse of the Schengen Information System database in a question to his country's Interior Ministry about "discreet checks" — secret international checks on people considered a threat to national security or public safety. He questioned whether and why different countries seemed to apply very different criteria.
"The increase in alerts cannot be explained by the threat of Islamist terrorism alone. Europol reports a four-digit number of confirmed foreign fighters, yet the increase of SIS alerts in 2017 is several times that," Hunko said in a statement late last month when he released the Interior Ministry response to his query.
That response included a spreadsheet detailing for the first time how many people were flagged for checks by each European country last year — more than 134,000 in all.
"This could mean that families and contacts of these individuals are also being secretly monitored. It is also possible that the measure is being used on a large scale for combatting other criminal activity," Hunko said.
The number of French entries by police and intelligence agencies "indicates a misuse" of the system intended to monitor dangerous criminals, he added.
The overall Schengen database — which is separate to the Europol database and far more widely used — forms the backbone of European security, allowing police, judicial authorities and other law enforcement to immediately check whether a person is wanted or missing, or a car is stolen, or a firearm is legal, for example. The database was checked 5 billion times in 2017 alone, according to the director of the EU-LISA agency, Krum Garkov.
But a relatively unknown provision in European law allows countries to flag people for the "discreet checks" — allowing law enforcement in one country to quietly notify counterparts elsewhere of a person's location and activities. Use of the system — intended for individuals who pose a threat to national security or public safety — has expanded enormously since Islamic State extremists attacked Paris and Brussels in 2015 and 2016, from 69,475 in 2015 to 134,662 last year, according to data from EU-LISA and Germany.
If someone is flagged for a check, their name will come up for any law enforcement official who has stopped them anywhere in Europe — whether trying to cross an external border or running a red light. In the entry, the requesting country can ask for a subsequent action, ranging from simply reporting back their location, vehicle, and traveling companions to detaining them immediately for arrest.
The checks, unlike arrest warrants, expire after a year, although Garkov said countries are notified of pending expirations and can renew them at will.
But vast disparities in its use by individual countries raise questions about both the effectiveness of the tools and the criteria countries are using to enter people into the system.
With 78,619 entries by 2017, France makes up 60 percent of the requests. Britain, with nearly the same population and 16,991 people flagged, comes in a distant second. Germany, Europe's most populous country, had 4,285 people flagged last year, according to the Interior Ministry data.
To put the French number in perspective, the country's intelligence chief, Laurent Nunez, said late last year that France had recorded 18,000 people as suspected extremists, and considered 4,000 of those to be highly dangerous. The Interior Ministry did not respond to requests to comment about the criteria for discreet checks. CNIL, the government data protection agency, said the 78,000 entries covered every person that France wanted flagged for any reason.
Like the U.S. "no fly list," people can only learn by inference whether they are flagged for a discreet check.
"People are not informed about the existence of this alert, which makes sense. But at the same there needs to be a proportionality assessment," said Niovi Vavoula, a legal scholar at Queen Mary University of London who studies the use of the database. "If certain member states are introducing alerts en masse to the system, this needs to be flagged as a problem."
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