posted by GeoT
By Scott Herhold
Eleven days ago, two Pebble Beach men reported an extraordinary art theft that has become more extraordinary as the news has dribbled out. The pair told Monterey Countysheriff’s deputies that thieves had broken into their expensive rental home and taken more than $60 million of art, including works by Jackson Pollock, Rembrandt, Matisse and Miro.
If the owners’ estimates were correct, the theft may be second in value only to the most famous 1990 heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, where thieves posing as policeman tied up two guards and escaped with works by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Degas. That theft, which has never been solved, has been pegged at $300 million.But an odd reaction has come from the art world. In my reporting, I’ve detected skepticism about aspects of the crime, particularly about the lack of insurance and the finding of a ransom note a few days after sheriff’s deputies combed through the house. “No one in their right mind brings a collection like that to a private home without security,” said Thomas McShane, an ex-FBI agent who has written a book about art theft and contends that the Pebble Beach report raises red flags.
“You have to have those works in a secure facility. You’re jeopardizing the integrity of the art by leaving them around unsecured.” The men who reported the theft, Angelo Benjamin Amadio, 31, and retired oncologist Dr. Ralph Kennaugh, 62, both recently arrived in California from Boston and describe themselves as “business partners.” They told deputies that thieves apparently climbed through an unlocked window at their $5 million rental home on Sunridge Road, a stucco-and-stone villa with a view of the ocean.
Then, a week ago, came a bombshell. The men announced that a ransom note — which included a death threat — had been found in the home, apparently missed in the initial search. The sheriff’s department put out a release saying the disclosure of this evidence to the media might have compromised the “integrity of the investigation.” A round of finger-pointing ensued.