FBI expert says theft of priceless art, musical instruments is a ‘crime of opportunity’

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MILWAUKEE -- It has been two weeks since a valuable, signed and original Pablo Picasso print was stolen from DeLind Fine Art Appraisals in Milwaukee. The 1949 print, which is one of just 30 in the world, is worth up to $50,000. Milwaukee police and the FBI continue to seek information that would lead them to the prized art.

Picasso print stolen from Milwaukee art gallery

In the meantime, FOX6 News talked exclusively with a Milwaukee FBI expert who said stealing art is usually the easy part. What happens next is not.

David Bass, FBI

"They take a piece of art or an artifact simply because it's a crime of opportunity," said David Bass, a member of the FBI's Art Crimes Team.

Bass said finding the crook and art may be difficult, but it is also difficult for the thief to turn a profit.

"The hard part is selling it. The reason for this is that these things tend to be one-of-a-kind, unique. They could be identified," Bass said.

Picasso print stolen from Milwaukee art gallery

Dealers can look up an item on the internet and Interpol Red List of stolen items to find out if a work of art is stolen.

"Stealing something that's worth $5 million, well, it must be worth $5 million stolen. The truth of the matter is, it's not worth much at all if you can't sell it," Bass said.

The FBI has been involved investigating art and artifact thefts from museums, such as from looted galleries in Syria and Baghdad. But Milwaukee also has its share.

1715 Lipinski Stradivarius violin

In 2014, a Lapinski Stradivarius was taken from the Milwaukee Symphony's Concertmaster. The instrument, valued at $5 million, was later discovered in the attic of a Milwaukee house. The thief arrested. But there is always an additional concern.

"They're not familiar with these objects. They don't know how to handle these objects -- and as a result, they're usually not well-cared for. And as a result, we're very concerned about that -- that they will suffer damage or not be kept properly," Bass said.

Frank Almond and the Stradivarius

The Picasso print stolen in Milwaukee was not only signed, it was numbered. So it is very easy to figure out if it is the stolen piece -- and not many people want to risk buying it. Bass said many stolen pieces end up stored or hidden for years -- or are just missing.

Picasso print stolen from Milwaukee art gallery

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