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  • August 01, 2017 11:21 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Bloomberg

    Insurance against terror attacks must adapt to face up to the threats posed by so-called lone-wolf militants and the rise of cyber crime.

    That’s the view of Julian Enoizi of Pool Reinsurance Co., the U.K. government-linked body that backstops insurers against terror-related payouts. The spate of recent attacks in the nation’s capital and the suicide bombing of a Manchester pop concert in May highlighted shortcomings in coverage that need to be addressed, he said.

    “We need to close gaps such as business interruption that’s not the result of physical damage and coverage of cyber terror as well the low take-up among businesses outside of London,” the Pool Re chief executive officer said in a phone interview.

    Vehicle attacks on Westminster Bridge in March and London Bridge three months later highlighted how the industry “should address the issue that motor insurance provides unlimited cover,” potentially leaving insurers liable for massive payouts, he said.

    Pool Re was formed as a venture between the industry and government in 1993 after the violence of the Provisional Irish Republican Army prompted insurers to withdraw cover for terror-related damage. The company has met more than 600 million pounds ($780 million) of claims, the largest being its 262 million-pound payout for the IRA bombing of Bishopsgate in the City of London financial district that same year.

    Lost Earnings

    Two-and-a-half decades later, the attacks of 2017 have shown the need for Pool Re to start covering so-called non-damage business interruption, so that firms could claim for lost earnings even if property was left intact, Enoizi said. Broadening cover would mean higher reinsurance premiums for Pool Re’s members, which include the local units of every major non-life insurer from Allianz SE and Aviva Plc to Zurich Insurance Group AG.

    He expects the largest claims this year to result from damage to the Manchester concert hall and interrupted business due to the closing of the nearby train station. In the capital, a man drove a car into crowds on Westminster Bridge in March before attempting to storm parliament, while in June, attackers in a van rammed pedestrians on London Bridge, before going on a stabbing rampage in a nearby entertainment hub.

    “The Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge attacks all resulted in claims for Pool Re,” Enoizi said. “It’s still too early to tell how large these will be. We are still receiving claims.”

    How Insurance Is Morphing With the Terror Threat: QuickTake Q&A

    Pool Re’s support means it would take a catastrophic terror attack with damages exceeding 10 billion pounds before the capacity of the U.K. insurance industry was exhausted, according to Enoizi. Still, that’s less than a third of the $43.6 billion insured loss from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks -- the costliest terror-insurance claim in history.

    “After 24 years and 16 separate terror events” Pool Re works well, “but we need to evolve the model in line with changing threats,” he said.

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  • August 01, 2017 11:16 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from

    Among the many buildings on Kos that sustained damage during last week’s 6.6 magnitude earthquake was the Dodecanese island’s archaeological museum. Thankfully, the historical structure built in 1936 survived the temblor but some of its ancient exhibits were less fortunate.

    According to a report issued on Monday by the Ministry of Culture, out of the 43 sculptures showcased on pedestals, three headless statues and one bust fell over and sustained minor chips and cracks, especially to parts that has been restored with plaster.

    In its initial statement after the earthquake, the ministry had only mentioned “shifts and minor deteriorations, mainly on ceramic vases.”

    Nevertheless, the damage was limited.

    Curator and archaeologist Toula Marketou was put in charge of drawing up a new exhibition plan after the museum underwent extensive renovation work last year. She told Kathimerini that the plan included earthquake provisions.

    The movement of the statues during last week’s quake was precisely that which was anticipated in simulations that led to certain measures being implemented to prevent greater damage.

    The aim should now obviously be the restoration of the damaged exhibits but additional steps so that the museum will be even better prepared in the future.

    The local office of the Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities is already moving in that direction as a crew of archaeologists, conservators and technicians have thrown themselves into the task of repairing the damaged exhibits and making sure the museum can reopen to the public as soon as possible. Meanwhile, a ministry delegation has traveled to the island to record and coordinate restoration work.

    Thanks to its recent upgrade, the museum has become a top attraction for visitors to the island. Its location at the heart of the town, in combination with the introduction of a single ticket that grants holders admission to multiple sites, result in many more visitors taking in the island’s archaeological treasures than would otherwise be the case.

    See Original Post

  • August 01, 2017 11:09 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Re-posted from L.A. Weekly

    Art can be beautiful, thought-provoking and extremely valuable. In a city with as much art as Los Angeles, thefts aren't uncommon. From Picasso to Charles Schulz's Peanuts, art has been at the center of enough cases that the Los Angeles Police Department has a detail dedicated to finding and retrieving the stolen items.

    Much like the art itself, these crimes are often spectacular. Below, we flash back to 10 L.A. art crimes, including scams, inside jobs and brazen heists.

    10. The stolen trailer filled with valuable art
    In November 2015, a trailer was stolen in
    Chatsworth. But this wasn't an ordinary trailer. It wasn't even a trailer loaded with some band's gear. This one was storing $250,000 worth of art. In the grand scheme of L.A. art heists, that's not a big dollar amount, but the names represented in the collection— Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse and Keith Haring among them — made it newsworthy. About six months after the story first hit the news, an arrest was made when the trailer was found stripped in a Canoga Park backyard. L.A. Times reported then that $120,000 worth of the art was recovered.

    9. Stolen art found via Facebook
    News travels fast now thanks to social media, and that can be helpful for tracking down stolen art. Last summer, a $10,000 painting by Neil Nagy was stolen from San Pedro's Warschaw Gallery during an art walk. On Aug. 2,
    KTLA reported about the theft and that security video footage showed the suspects in an alley. The following day, The Daily Breeze reported that the painting had been found. What happened was that a post about the incident also turned up on a community Facebook page and an unidentified woman who saw that post recognized the art as something that had been tossed over her fence. The painting was returned to the gallery.

    8. The burglary that took Chagall and Rivera from an elderly couple's Encino home
    In 2008, thieves broke into the
    Encino home of an elderly couple, probably through an unlocked door, and absconded with millions of dollars' worth of 20th-century art, including pieces by Marc Chagall and Diego Rivera. The couple were home but didn't hear anything; it was their housekeeper who noticed the crime after returning from the grocery store. Several years passed between the heist and its resolution, during which time the couple died and the family received the insurance payout. It wasn't until 2014 that a joint undercover effort between LAPD and the FBI led to an arrest. Someone in Europe by the name of "Darko" was trying to find buyers for the stolen paintings, which led law enforcement to a West L.A. hotel where Raul Espinosa tried to sell paintings valued at more than $10 million for $700,000. Espinosa pleaded no contest and ultimately was sentenced to four-plus years in prison. Meanwhile, authorities were able to recover nine of the 12 stolen pieces.

    7. The Strange heist of two Maxfield Parrish paintings
    At the time that two Maxfield Parrish oil paintings were stolen from a Melrose Avenue art gallery, the theft was a
    head-scratcher that was compared to fictional crime capers. More than a decade later, the 2002 heist is still baffling. The oil paintings were large — said to be 5 feet by 6 feet in size — and represented two panels of a six-panel mural commissioned by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and painted by Parrish between 1912 and 1916. The whole mural was on display at West Hollywood's Edenhurst Fine Art Gallery, which was trying to sell the work on behalf of two art investors. Then the works were stolen. The gallery was closed on the day of the crime; the thieves were believed to have entered through the roof and spent much of the day in the gallery, ultimately cutting out the two panels from their frames. What makes the crime stranger is that experts said the pieces would have been difficult to sell because they're only parts of a whole work, and recognizable parts at that. Still, this crime remains unsolved. In 2016, the heist appeared on a list of top art thefts that the FBI still needs to resolve and there continues to be information and a tip line on its website.

    6. The Natural History Museum heist of 1973
    If the theft of Native American artifacts from the Natural History Museum seems faded from the collective memory of Los Angeles, that might be because it didn't seem to get much ink in the first place. A ProQuest search of the Los Angeles Times' archives turned up a two-paragraph report from Nov. 5, 1973, that noted 53 items had been stolen from the museum a month earlier and 16 had been recovered in the ensuing weeks. But, LAPD's
    Art Theft Detail notes that most of the items are still missing. Moreover, the crime is now so old that a lot of the original reports were destroyed. Still, LAPD says that 28 years after the theft, two of the blankets were recovered via a museum exhibition in St. Louis, where they were on loan from an unnamed celebrity who'd purchased them years earlier.

    5. The scheme to steal pieces from UCLA's art collection
    In the late 1970s, there was an Arthur Wesley Dow painting,
    Frost Flowers, Ipswich 1889, inside UCLA's counseling department. The thing is, no one knew what the painting was. One staffer took the painting home and spent a decade researching it, ultimately learning of its identity and history. The staffer returned the painting and told his supervisor about it. Then the supervisor stole it. LAPD's Art Theft Detail highlights this unusual crime on its website, and the story is convoluted. The supervisor, Jane Crawford, found accomplices by lying to them and saying that the painting had been in her family and she wanted to sell it. They sold the piece to a gallery, who in turn sold it to a collector. But Crawford wanted more art, and when she used the same lies to attempt to steal and sell more paintings, the accomplices smelled something fishy. They didn't say anything, though, until Crawford accused them of stealing from her. In 1999, Crawford was tried for her misdeeds, at which point her attorney argued that what she did wasn't really all that bad since UCLA couldn't prove that it owned the painting and, besides, people were using it as a dartboard in the break room. The argument didn't fly, and Crawford was sentenced to 10 months behind bars, plus probation, community service and restitution.

    4. The case of the missing Peanuts art
    It took a while for the employees at Charles Schulz's animation studio to notice that
    Peanuts animation cels had been stolen. The culprit was a longtime handyman who had cautiously removed the works from the center of the boxes in which they'd been stored. Employees found 240 cels missing during an inventory, but it turned out that the culprit took much more than that. LAPD cites this as an example of internet searches helping to solve crimes. They started to recover the cels through an online sale and were able to trace those back to a dealer in the San Fernando Valley, which led them to the culprit. In all, more than 7,600 pieces of Peanuts animation art were stolen, worth a totel of $1.5 million.

    3. The plan to retrieve Peruzzi Madonna
    In 1970, a Hollywood man went out to dinner and returned home to find that his house had been robbed of a painting known as the
    Peruzzi Madonna. The painting of the Madonna and child was quite valuable; some believed it was the work of Raphael, while others argued that it was work from the same period. Either way, it was worth a lot and two years passed before Los Angeles detectives were able to retrieve it. The sting operation was elaborate and detailed in a Los Angeles Times story from 1973. Working on a tip from an employee at a financial firm, who caught wind of the painting through a job applicant, the detectives went undercover. One played a Russian art dealer interested in the work, the other his interpreter. In the end, it worked. The suspects were apprehended and the painting was taken as evidence.

    2. A stolen Rodin and the quest to retrieve it
    Rodins have been stolen a lot, but there's one local instance that almost has a happy ending. Back in the early 1990s, a Beverly Hills couple returned from vacation to find that their home had been burglarized and $1 million worth of possessions were stolen. Among them were three works by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Six months after the crime, police found the couple's housekeeper, who had apparently sold a set of keys to the thieves, and later were able to recover a few items. It took just about 20 years, though, to find one Rodin, a bronze limited-edition cast of "Young Girl With Serpent." That happened almost by chance, when a French expert was at Christie's in London and recognized the statue from a database of stolen art. Christie's halted the auction and alerted authorities, but it took another few years to successfully get the statue back from the then-owner, the son of a deceased West Hollywood gallerist. Ultimately, the statue went to the insurance company, who had long since paid out the original owner, and the sculpture went back on the auction block.

    1. The Picasso and Monet "stolen" from a Brentwood home
    Even when Brentwood ophthalmologist Steven G. Cooperman reported that his Picasso (Nude Before a Mirror, 1932) and Monet (Customs Officer Cabin at Pourville, 1882) were stolen while he was on vacation in New Jersey, the story was
    suspicious. LAPD had noticed that the alarm wasn't triggered and nothing inside the house was awry. It was just those two paintings that were missing — two paintings that had recently been insured for $12.5 million. Plus, there was something strange about Dr. Cooperman, or rather, the former doctor Cooperman. There was debate over whether his license had been revoked or he'd willingly surrendered it but, needless to say, he was in trouble with the medical board. On top of that, he was being sued for insurance fraud. That was in 1992, but it wasn't until 1996 when all the pieces fell together somewhere outside of Cleveland. It was a domestic violence call that tipped off police to the stolen art. In June 1997, the paintings were found unscathed inside a storage locker in suburban Cleveland. During the trial, all was revealed. One attorney, James P. Tierney, had plotted the fake heist with Cooperman to get the insurance money. He turned on Cooperman and admitted to the plot. Another attorney, James J. Little, had moved to Ohio and hid the paintings there. Cooperman was convicted on 18 counts and ultimately sent to federal prison for 37 months.

    See Original Post

  • July 25, 2017 2:45 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Atlas Obscura

    In 1933, a group of employees from the U.S. National Park Service found themselves in a bit of a pickle. The NPS was working hard to put together a display for the upcoming Chicago World’s Fair, a massive exhibition that promised to draw tens of millions of visitors. They already had a scale model of the Grand Canyon, wood samples from Petrified Forest, and a 12-foot-tall “miniature Mt. Rainer” that experienced a blizzard whenever visitors pushed a button.

    But the director wanted to make sure they had something else—a fossilized cycad plant from the end of the Cretaceous period. Thousands had been preserved in the silt beds of South Dakota, and the best specimens were both familiar-looking and clearly ancient. If you were showing off the country’s wonders, a cycad was a good thing to include.

    The staffers figured they knew where to find one: at Fossil Cycad National Monument, a 320-acre patch of land in South Dakota’s Black Hills, just south of Minnekahta. After all, it had been set aside for protection because it was littered with the things. But when they returned, they were empty-handed: not only did they fail to bring back a suitable specimen, they couldn’t even suss out where to look for one. “They came back and said they couldn’t find the site,” says Vince Santucci. “There were no resources left at the location.”

    Santucci, a senior paleontologist with the National Park Service, is used to digging up and piecing together lost creatures. He’s spent the past few decades reconstructing a different kind of extinct thing: the lost saga of Fossil Cycad. One of only a few national monuments in U.S. history to be completely stripped of its status, the site—which started out as a trove of ancient treasures—eventually became the center of political skirmishes, dramatic staged excavations, everyday pilfering, and scientific self-sabotage. “An incredible story emerged,” says Santucci.

    The tale of Fossil Cycad really starts in the late Cretaceous, when a large clump of prehistoric plants in what would eventually become the Black Hills was buried by a landslide. Over the next 70 million years, the plants slowly solidified, as their organic matter was replaced with built-up molecules of silica and other minerals. In the 1890s, South Dakota ranchers began discovering the resulting fossils in great numbers, nicknaming them “petrified pineapples” and selling them as curios.

    Soon, scientists from the University of Iowa, the Smithsonian, and other institutions came out to investigate, and to buy specimens. The fossils were preserved to a unique degree, enabling researchers to dissect and study them almost as they would a living plant. (As Santucci explains, they were also actually cycadeoids, which have different reproductive structures than cycads—but this distinction was not made until later.) By the end of the 19th century, the land around Minnekahta was recognized as a unique and significant paleontological site.

    One of these scientists was a young man named George Reber Wieland. A paleontology student at Yale University, Wieland had spent the beginning of his career chasing down dead animals, gaining a certain amount of renown for his discovery of Archelon ischyros, a Cretaceous-era sea turtle that remains the largest known to man.

    In 1898, the year after he dug up the turtle, Wieland went to the Black Hills and found something that interested him even more: a fossil cycad, with what he later described as “the most perfectly silicified prefoliate fronds of any yet obtained.” He changed his focus to paleobotany, and embarked on a mission to achieve “a complete elaboration” of the structures of various cycad types.

    “He became the world’s leading expert on fossil cycads,” says Santucci, who describes Wieland as “sort of an eccentric, crazy professor.” He wrote two books on the subject, American Fossil Cycads and American Fossil Cycads, Volume 2, in which he wrote rapturously of the “superb beauty” of particular cycads while laying out their anatomy and natural history. He even decorated his backyard with some of his specimens, arranged alongside living plants.

    All this time, Wieland was also working on a related side project: trying to protect the fossil-rich area in South Dakota from which so many of his beloved specimens came. There were layers upon layers of the so-called petrified pineapples hidden in the dirt, but thanks to the attentions of collectors, tourists, and scientists like himself, they tended to disappear nearly as fast as erosion revealed them. This was, Wieland had written, “the most important of all the American cycad horizons.” Was there some way to keep it intact?

    In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt gave him a possible way forward by passing the Antiquities Act, which granted presidents the power to designate federal lands as national monuments. Roosevelt quickly began using it, setting aside spaces including Devil’s Tower, Montezuma Castle, and the Muir Woods. “Wieland strongly felt that the site that he was working on was worthy of similar preservation,” and began lobbying the government to turn it into a national monument, says Santucci. “He invested a lot of energy.” During his research, Santucci found copies of dozens of letters the professor wrote to senators and Congressmen, asking for their support.

    When that proved ineffective, Wieland dreamed up a different strategy. In 1920, under the auspices of the Homesteading Act—which was more meant to encourage people to move West, not to enable paleobotany—“he actually acquired 160 acres of land in which the fossils were situated,” says Santucci. “So he was using that as leverage, convincing the federal government that he would donate it back.”

    This worked. On October 21, 1922, President Warren G. Harding officially deemed the area protected, placing it under the jurisdiction of the U.S. National Park Service. The paleobotanic deposits at the newly declared Fossil Cycad National Monument were “of great scientific interest and value,” Harding wrote in the corresponding Presidental Proclamation. “Warning is hereby expressly given to all unauthorized persons not to appropriate, injure, destroy, or remove any of the fossils of this monument.”

    Unfortunately for Fossil Cycad, its official recognition as an American landmark came at a difficult time for the country overall. “It was a period of economic hardship,” says Santucci. “Fossil Cycad wasn’t really developed like other national parks and monuments were.” That meant no one was hired to watch over the land. While the superintendent of nearby Wind Cave National Park was put in charge of its overall management, “day-to-day surveillance was entrusted to local ranchers,” writes Santucci. The site’s only sign—a 15-inch carved wooden plank—abbreviated both “National” and “Monument,” but made sure to spell out “NO PROSPECTING.”

    Despite this lack of amenities, tourists continued to swing by, and to take pieces of the monument home with them. “People reading in newspapers about the monument in the Black Hills would come,” says Santucci. Natural erosion meant that new layers of fossils were gradually exposed, creating more buzz and more foot traffic. Such was the Fossil Cycad catch-22: when there weren’t any visible fossils, it wasn’t much of a monument. But whenever there were enough to attract visitors, those same visitors meant they were quick to disappear.

    This cycle happened repeatedly. When the National Park Service sent the superintendent of Yellowstone to check on Fossil Cycad in 1929, he didn’t mince words. “There is nothing left that is of interest to visitors,” he wrote in his report. Pointing out that the NPS had a reputation to uphold, he continued, “It is a liability, not an asset, to the rest of the system… it would seem to be desirable to discontinue it as a national monument.”

    For years, government authorities argued back and forth about whether to keep Fossil Cycad on the payroll. Meanwhile, Wieland wasn’t one to sit on his hands. In 1935, after the World’s Fair debacle, he brought a crew from the Civilian Conservation Corps to Fossil Cycad. As scientists and NPS representatives looked on, the workers dug a half dozen pits, revealing piles upon piles of previously unexposed fossils, over one ton of material.

    Wieland had the fossils stored in Wind Park for safekeeping, but when the NPS asked him to write a report detailing the site’s precise value, he said he wouldn’t do any more work until they had committed to building some infrastructure. Specifically, he wanted a black granite museum where he could display his most interesting specimens.

    The NPS called his bluff, suggesting that Wieland seek his own funding, and sending him once again into what Santucci calls “a frenzy of letter-writing” to various politicians. He began agitating for a visitor’s center as well, asking students at the Yale School of Architecture to draft design proposals, and trying to convince his own senator to earmark the cost into the Connecticut state budget. (He said no.

    In the meantime, others related to the endeavor began to call Wieland’s integrity into question. In 1938, the superintendent of Wind Cave National Park, E.D. Freeland, told the South Dakota Argus-Leader that on several occasions, Wieland had had “carloads” of fossil cycads shipped to New Haven, both from the site itself and from the “protected” stash stored at Wind Cave.

    “There is not one specimen at the Wind Cave national park, where every day interested visitors inquire about them,” Freeland said at the time. (As Santucci writes, National Park Service geologist Carrol Wegemann corroborated the claim, and Wieland later admitted to having stolen at least 1,000 specimens right before the monument was designated.)

    Facing these accusations—and, one suspects, the prospect of having doomed his own monument—Wieland became more and more agitated. He responded to a proposal to build a cycad-related visitor’s center at Wind Cave instead as full of “bat dung,” arguing somewhat ironically that the fossils must be viewed “in situ,” or the site would “mean but little.” He called Freeland a “hill billy,” and referred to his park as “Windy Cave.” “You have stood my good plans off for fifteen years,” he wrote desperately to the NPS.

    It was all for naught. Wieland died in 1953, and four years later, the monument—which by now just looked like grass, rocks and dirt—was officially abolished.

    It has left one legacy, though. Fossil theft is still a big problem in national parks. “Over the past ten years, we have had more than 700 documented instances,” Santucci says.

    Having pieced together this story, in which such transgressions were taken to extremes, he’s since been working its lessons into educational programs. “People are incensed to think that an area that was set aside as a National Park is no longer there,” he says. “The circumstances upon which that decision was made, to abolish it—I think it does help us to present the idea that fossils are non-renewable resources.” We’ve already learned that the hard way.

    See Original Post

  • July 25, 2017 2:39 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

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  • July 25, 2017 2:35 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from

    More than a year after Andy Warhol soup can artwork was stolen from the Springfield Art Museum, there’s no update in the investigation. But the museum has seriously updated its security.

    Some people, like regular Larry Clutter, say unseen security is making the biggest difference.

    "They've obviously taken security guards who used to sit up right in the front little area, and moved them back to some area where they have a private office and I'm sure they've got umpteen more television screens and cameras,” Clutter said.

    It’s something Clutter, who visits monthly, said he’s picked up on in the last year. Joshua Best, the Development and Marketing Coordinator for the Springfield Art Museum, said regulars like Clutter are sure to notice one change.

    "We've also added additional gallery attendants, who are there to answer questions, that can also help monitor activity as well,” Best said.

    Clutter said, “The monitors, kind of just watch you, but they're friendly and if you have a random question they'll help you with that.”

    The museum also changed its hours.       

    "We open at 10 in the morning now instead of 9, but we're open later in the evening,” Best said. “And that extra time in the morning helps security staff go through all the procedures that they need to to get us ready to open up."

    Although you probably won't see any flyers anymore, asking for information about the stolen Andy Warhol prints, that doesn't mean they've been forgotten.

    "Most of those changes happened as a response to the theft last April,” Best said.

    So where are the stolen Warhol soup cans now?

    "People are always curious,” Best said. “Warhol is a big name. Unfortunately the case is still open."       

    Clutter has one theory.

    "It's probably in Beijing or Seoul or Tokyo now,” Clutter said. “Fifty years from now somebody will die and then they'll discover it again."

    The museum hopes to find the stolen prints sooner than that. Best wanted to remind the public that there is a reward for any information about the theft. Contact the FBI’s Kansas City Field Office to report any information.

    See original post

  • July 25, 2017 2:31 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

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  • July 25, 2017 2:24 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Buffalo News

    In the pantheon of industrialists and philanthropists who made Buffalo a great city, A. Conger Goodyear holds a special spot.

    Born here, he gained wealth and stature during the early 1900s as a railroad and lumber executive and avid art collector who owned works by Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. When Goodyear died, his personal letters went to the Buffalo History Museum.

    On Thursday, a former museum volunteer admitted to stealing some of Goodyear's letters and, with the help of an alias, trying to sell them to a collector in Manhattan.

    As a result of his fraud conviction, Buffalo's Daniel Jude Witek, 54, will face a recommended sentence of up to 10 months in prison.

    "You can't allow this to happen," said Michael DiGiacomo, an assistant U.S. attorney, of Witek's thefts. "Buffalo has a lot of history and heritage and we have to protect that."

    Witek was arrested in 2013 after an internationally-known collector in Manhattan emailed the History Museum, inquiring if important Goodyear documents had gone missing.

    A few days earlier, the collector had offered $2,750 for five Goodyear letters and postcards being offered by a man who claimed to have several more.

    By most accounts, the collector's email that day was the first hint that valuable letters from the Buffalo tycoon-turned-philanthropist might have been stolen from the museum’s archives.

    During an interview with The Buffalo News in 2015, more than a year after he was first charged, Witek described himself as an art history and museum collections expert.

    Museum officials called him a con man.

    At the time, Witek acknowledged trying to sell the Goodyear letters to the collector but said the letters were his to sell. He said the museum, because of poor oversight and record-keeping, would be hard-pressed to prove otherwise.

    He also claimed some of the letters were handed down from his grandfather and that he bought the rest from a New York City gallery.

    Accused in court papers of using a fake name, Walter Payne, while trying to sell the Goodyear letters, Witek told the FBI he used a false moniker because he was selling cheaper items and wanted to preserve his reputation as a high-end consultant and collector.

    “I wasn’t trying to get away with anything,” he said in 2015. “I wasn’t pretending to be the Count of Monte Cristo.”

    Witek, according to investigators, was able to steal the letters because of the trust he gained as a volunteer who claimed he had his own Goodyear collection.

    During Thursday's court appearance, defense attorney Patrick J. Brown asked U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny to release Witek until his sentencing in November, a request the judge granted.

    "I just want this to be fully satisfied and be done with," Witek, who has spent several months in custody, told Skretny.

    The History Museum's thefts came at a time when museums and libraries across the world were confronting embarrassing revelations about missing letters, documents and pieces of art.

    About that same time, the Boston Public Library found itself trying to explain how two works of art, valued at $630,000, were discovered missing in April and were eventually found 80 feet from where they were supposed to be. The library president resigned after an audit accused the library of failing to maintain a complete inventory of prized possessions and putting its special collections at risk.

    The Goodyear papers in Buffalo are valued because of the owner's reputation as an industrialist and philanthropist. Even more noteworthy, perhaps, was that Goodyear at one point served as president of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Goodyear died in 1964.

    Witek's guily plea is the result of an FBI and Secret Service investigation and a prosecution by DiGiacomo and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan P. Cantil.

    See original article

  • July 25, 2017 2:21 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

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  • July 25, 2017 2:16 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Independent

    Museum has now reopened following 'chaotic' scenes

    The British Museum has been evacuated amid a "security concern" after a suspicious vehicle was spotted outside the London attraction.

    Families enjoying a day out at the start of the school holidays were reportedly thrown into panic when they were suddenly asked to leave.

    The popular attraction said on Twitter: “The Museum is evacuated temporarily due to a security concern nearby. We apologise and will update when we can.”

    Several people took to social media to describe the disruption, with one person tweeting: “I’ve just been in a British Museum evacuation and it was total chaos."

    “Russell Square closed and controlled explosion has taken place. Trying to get to hotel for wedding reception,” another person tweeted.

    One said: “Suspicious package in Russell Square. Roads and park cordoned off. Our offices evacuated.”

    The museum has now reopened and confirmed the closure was down to a security scare.

    The Metropolitian Police said the operation has now been stood down and that nothing was deemed suspicious

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