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Police: Art Thief Among Two Held in Violin Heist

  • A $5 million Stradivarius violin is displayed at the Milwaukee Police Department Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Milwaukee, a day after police recovered the instrument stolen on Jan. 27 from a concertmaster in a parking lot by a person wielding a stun gun. Police say the violin appears to be in good condition, and a Milwaukee County prosecutor said he planned to charge at least one suspect with felony robbery. (AP Photo/Dinesh Ramde)

    A $5 million Stradivarius violin is displayed at the Milwaukee Police Department Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Milwaukee, a day after police recovered the instrument stolen on Jan. 27 from a concertmaster in a parking lot by a person wielding a stun gun. Police say the violin appears to be in good condition, and a Milwaukee County prosecutor said he planned to charge at least one suspect with felony robbery. (AP Photo/Dinesh Ramde)

  • In this undated photo provided by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is the 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was stolen from MSO concertmaster Frank Almond. Police said Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 three people have been arrested in connection with the theft of the multi-million-dollar instrument that was on loan to Almond. Authorities say a robber used a stun gun on Almond and took the instrument from him in a parking lot. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)

    In this undated photo provided by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is the 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was stolen from MSO concertmaster Frank Almond. Police said Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 three people have been arrested in connection with the theft of the multi-million-dollar instrument that was on loan to Almond. Authorities say a robber used a stun gun on Almond and took the instrument from him in a parking lot. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)

  • In this undated photo provided by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra  concertmaster Frank Almond plays a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was on loan to him during a concert in Milwaukee. Police said Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, three people have been arrested in connection with the theft of the multi-million-dollar instrument.   (AP Photo/Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)

    In this undated photo provided by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond plays a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was on loan to him during a concert in Milwaukee. Police said Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, three people have been arrested in connection with the theft of the multi-million-dollar instrument. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)

  • This police booking photo released by Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office shows Universal Knowledge Allah, 36, of Milwaukee. Allah and two others have been arrested in the case of a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen late last month from a concert violinist who was shocked with a stun gun.(AP Photo/Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office)

    This police booking photo released by Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office shows Universal Knowledge Allah, 36, of Milwaukee. Allah and two others have been arrested in the case of a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen late last month from a concert violinist who was shocked with a stun gun.(AP Photo/Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office)

  • This police booking photo released by Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office shows Universal Knowledge Allah, 36, of Milwaukee. Allah and two others have been arrested in the case of a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen late last month from a concert violinist who was shocked with a stun gun.(AP Photo/Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office)

    This police booking photo released by Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office shows Universal Knowledge Allah, 36, of Milwaukee. Allah and two others have been arrested in the case of a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen late last month from a concert violinist who was shocked with a stun gun.(AP Photo/Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office)

  • In this undated photo provided by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is the 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was stolen from MSO concertmaster Frank Almond. Police said Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 three people have been arrested in connection with the theft of the multi-million-dollar instrument that was on loan to Almond. Authorities say a robber used a stun gun on Almond and took the instrument from him in a parking lot. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)

    In this undated photo provided by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is the 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was stolen from MSO concertmaster Frank Almond. Police said Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 three people have been arrested in connection with the theft of the multi-million-dollar instrument that was on loan to Almond. Authorities say a robber used a stun gun on Almond and took the instrument from him in a parking lot. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)

  • A $5 million Stradivarius violin is displayed at the Milwaukee Police Department Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Milwaukee, a day after police recovered the instrument stolen on Jan. 27 from a concertmaster in a parking lot by a person wielding a stun gun. Police say the violin appears to be in good condition, and a Milwaukee County prosecutor said he planned to charge at least one suspect with felony robbery. (AP Photo/Dinesh Ramde)

    A $5 million Stradivarius violin is displayed at the Milwaukee Police Department Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Milwaukee, a day after police recovered the instrument stolen on Jan. 27 from a concertmaster in a parking lot by a person wielding a stun gun. Police say the violin appears to be in good condition, and a Milwaukee County prosecutor said he planned to charge at least one suspect with felony robbery. (AP Photo/Dinesh Ramde)

  • A $5 million Stradivarius violin is displayed at the Milwaukee Police Department Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Milwaukee, a day after police recovered the instrument stolen on Jan. 27 from a concertmaster in a parking lot by a person wielding a stun gun. Police say the violin appears to be in good condition, and a Milwaukee County prosecutor said he planned to charge at least one suspect with felony robbery. (AP Photo/Dinesh Ramde)

    A $5 million Stradivarius violin is displayed at the Milwaukee Police Department Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Milwaukee, a day after police recovered the instrument stolen on Jan. 27 from a concertmaster in a parking lot by a person wielding a stun gun. Police say the violin appears to be in good condition, and a Milwaukee County prosecutor said he planned to charge at least one suspect with felony robbery. (AP Photo/Dinesh Ramde)

  • Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn describes how authorities tracked down a rare $5 million Stradivarius violin that was stolen in a brazen Jan. 27 attack, during a news conference as Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, left, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge G.B. Jones, far right, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 at the Milwaukee Police Department in Milwaukee. Flynn said authorities developed information through tips and interrogations.(AP Photo/Dinesh Ramde)

    Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn describes how authorities tracked down a rare $5 million Stradivarius violin that was stolen in a brazen Jan. 27 attack, during a news conference as Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, left, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge G.B. Jones, far right, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 at the Milwaukee Police Department in Milwaukee. Flynn said authorities developed information through tips and interrogations.(AP Photo/Dinesh Ramde)

  • Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn describes how authorities tracked down a rare $5 million Stradivarius violin that was stolen in a brazen Jan. 27 attack, during a news conference as Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, left, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge G.B. Jones, far right, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 at the Milwaukee Police Department in Milwaukee. Flynn said authorities developed information through tips and interrogations.(AP Photo/Dinesh Ramde)

    Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn describes how authorities tracked down a rare $5 million Stradivarius violin that was stolen in a brazen Jan. 27 attack, during a news conference as Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, left, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge G.B. Jones, far right, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 at the Milwaukee Police Department in Milwaukee. Flynn said authorities developed information through tips and interrogations.(AP Photo/Dinesh Ramde)

  • This police booking photo released by Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office shows Salah Jones, 41, of Milwaukee. Jones and two others have been arrested in the case of a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen late last month from a concert violinist who was shocked with a stun gun. Jones was convicted of stealing a $25,000 statue from a gallery at Milwaukee's posh Pfister Hotel in 1995. (AP Photo/Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office)

    This police booking photo released by Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office shows Salah Jones, 41, of Milwaukee. Jones and two others have been arrested in the case of a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen late last month from a concert violinist who was shocked with a stun gun. Jones was convicted of stealing a $25,000 statue from a gallery at Milwaukee's posh Pfister Hotel in 1995. (AP Photo/Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office)

  • This police booking photo released by Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office shows Salah Jones, 41, of Milwaukee. Jones and two others have been arrested in the case of a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen late last month from a concert violinist who was shocked with a stun gun. Jones was convicted of stealing a $25,000 statue from a gallery at Milwaukee's posh Pfister Hotel in 1995. (AP Photo/Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office)

    This police booking photo released by Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office shows Salah Jones, 41, of Milwaukee. Jones and two others have been arrested in the case of a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen late last month from a concert violinist who was shocked with a stun gun. Jones was convicted of stealing a $25,000 statue from a gallery at Milwaukee's posh Pfister Hotel in 1995. (AP Photo/Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office)

  • In this 2009 photo provided by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is concertmaster Frank Almond. Police said Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 three people have been arrested in connection with the theft of a multi-million-dollar, 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was on loan to him. Authorities say a robber used a stun gun on Almond and took the instrument from him in a parking lot. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)

    In this 2009 photo provided by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is concertmaster Frank Almond. Police said Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 three people have been arrested in connection with the theft of a multi-million-dollar, 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was on loan to him. Authorities say a robber used a stun gun on Almond and took the instrument from him in a parking lot. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)

  • This surveillance video image released by the Madison Heights Police Department shows two suspects in the robbery of a 7-Eleven store in Madison Heights, Mich., on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. Police say one of the robbers also is suspected in burglaries Tuesday and Jan. 29 at a Madison Heights doughnut shop. (AP Photo/Madison Heights Police Department)

    This surveillance video image released by the Madison Heights Police Department shows two suspects in the robbery of a 7-Eleven store in Madison Heights, Mich., on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. Police say one of the robbers also is suspected in burglaries Tuesday and Jan. 29 at a Madison Heights doughnut shop. (AP Photo/Madison Heights Police Department)

  • A $5 million Stradivarius violin is displayed at the Milwaukee Police Department Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Milwaukee, a day after police recovered the instrument stolen on Jan. 27 from a concertmaster in a parking lot by a person wielding a stun gun. Police say the violin appears to be in good condition, and a Milwaukee County prosecutor said he planned to charge at least one suspect with felony robbery. (AP Photo/Dinesh Ramde)
  • In this undated photo provided by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is the 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was stolen from MSO concertmaster Frank Almond. Police said Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 three people have been arrested in connection with the theft of the multi-million-dollar instrument that was on loan to Almond. Authorities say a robber used a stun gun on Almond and took the instrument from him in a parking lot. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)
  • In this undated photo provided by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra  concertmaster Frank Almond plays a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was on loan to him during a concert in Milwaukee. Police said Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, three people have been arrested in connection with the theft of the multi-million-dollar instrument.   (AP Photo/Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)
  • This police booking photo released by Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office shows Universal Knowledge Allah, 36, of Milwaukee. Allah and two others have been arrested in the case of a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen late last month from a concert violinist who was shocked with a stun gun.(AP Photo/Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office)
  • This police booking photo released by Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office shows Universal Knowledge Allah, 36, of Milwaukee. Allah and two others have been arrested in the case of a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen late last month from a concert violinist who was shocked with a stun gun.(AP Photo/Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office)
  • In this undated photo provided by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is the 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was stolen from MSO concertmaster Frank Almond. Police said Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 three people have been arrested in connection with the theft of the multi-million-dollar instrument that was on loan to Almond. Authorities say a robber used a stun gun on Almond and took the instrument from him in a parking lot. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)
  • A $5 million Stradivarius violin is displayed at the Milwaukee Police Department Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Milwaukee, a day after police recovered the instrument stolen on Jan. 27 from a concertmaster in a parking lot by a person wielding a stun gun. Police say the violin appears to be in good condition, and a Milwaukee County prosecutor said he planned to charge at least one suspect with felony robbery. (AP Photo/Dinesh Ramde)
  • A $5 million Stradivarius violin is displayed at the Milwaukee Police Department Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Milwaukee, a day after police recovered the instrument stolen on Jan. 27 from a concertmaster in a parking lot by a person wielding a stun gun. Police say the violin appears to be in good condition, and a Milwaukee County prosecutor said he planned to charge at least one suspect with felony robbery. (AP Photo/Dinesh Ramde)
  • Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn describes how authorities tracked down a rare $5 million Stradivarius violin that was stolen in a brazen Jan. 27 attack, during a news conference as Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, left, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge G.B. Jones, far right, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 at the Milwaukee Police Department in Milwaukee. Flynn said authorities developed information through tips and interrogations.(AP Photo/Dinesh Ramde)
  • Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn describes how authorities tracked down a rare $5 million Stradivarius violin that was stolen in a brazen Jan. 27 attack, during a news conference as Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, left, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge G.B. Jones, far right, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 at the Milwaukee Police Department in Milwaukee. Flynn said authorities developed information through tips and interrogations.(AP Photo/Dinesh Ramde)
  • This police booking photo released by Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office shows Salah Jones, 41, of Milwaukee. Jones and two others have been arrested in the case of a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen late last month from a concert violinist who was shocked with a stun gun. Jones was convicted of stealing a $25,000 statue from a gallery at Milwaukee's posh Pfister Hotel in 1995. (AP Photo/Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office)
  • This police booking photo released by Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office shows Salah Jones, 41, of Milwaukee. Jones and two others have been arrested in the case of a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen late last month from a concert violinist who was shocked with a stun gun. Jones was convicted of stealing a $25,000 statue from a gallery at Milwaukee's posh Pfister Hotel in 1995. (AP Photo/Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office)
  • In this 2009 photo provided by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is concertmaster Frank Almond. Police said Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 three people have been arrested in connection with the theft of a multi-million-dollar, 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was on loan to him. Authorities say a robber used a stun gun on Almond and took the instrument from him in a parking lot. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)
  • This surveillance video image released by the Madison Heights Police Department shows two suspects in the robbery of a 7-Eleven store in Madison Heights, Mich., on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. Police say one of the robbers also is suspected in burglaries Tuesday and Jan. 29 at a Madison Heights doughnut shop. (AP Photo/Madison Heights Police Department)

Milwaukee — The mystery of what happened to a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen in a stun gun attack was answered Thursday when Milwaukee police recovered the instrument and blamed the heist at least in part on an art thief who once stole a statue from a gallery and then tried to sell it back.

The violin, which was built in 1715 by the renowned Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari, is valued at $5 million. It was found hidden in a suitcase in the attic of a man who police said was unaware the instrument was in his home.

Three people have been arrested in the case, and Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said there was no evidence of other “shadowy” figures from the art world behind the theft.

“It appears we had a local criminal who had an interest in art theft and was smart enough to develop a plan for a robbery,” Flynn said. “Beyond that, we don’t know what his motive was.”

The violin, which police said appeared to be in good condition, was stolen late last month from a concert violinist who was shocked with a stun gun. His attacker grabbed the violin and hopped into a waiting vehicle.

Police traced the stun gun to Universal Knowledge Allah, a 36-year-old barber. A citizen’s tip led police to Salah Jones, the 41-year-old man convicted of stealing a $25,000 statue from a gallery at Milwaukee’s posh Pfister Hotel in 1995.

Officers had the men under surveillance before arresting them Monday, along with a 32-year-old woman who was later released from custody.

Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm said Thursday that he expected to charge at least one of the suspects today. He said charges were delayed while prosecutors negotiated with one suspect for the return of the violin. The suspect led police Wednesday night to the home of an acquaintance, who had allowed the suspect to store a suitcase in his attic.

It’s not clear what the suspects planned to do with the violin. Such high-value instruments are almost always well-documented with photographs and easily identified, said David Bonsey, a New York-based violin maker and appraiser who appears on the Public Broadcasting Service’s Antiques Roadshow.

“There’s virtually no place that a violin like this can be taken and fenced,” Bonsey said. “You can’t take it to a pawn shop.”

Some art collectors will buy stolen objects that they keep hidden for their own enjoyment, Bonsey said. But Flynn said there was no indication in this case of “shadowy figures in the art world that were trying to purchase this” violin.

The violin, known in musical circles as the “Lipinski” Stradivarius because it was once played by Polish violinist Karol Lipinski, has been appraised for insurance purposes at $5 million.

It has value as a musical instrument and as a work of art, Bonsey said.

The violin is “part of a body of work from someone whose work just cannot be imitated,” he said. “A lot of people do sculptures, but there’s only one Michelangelo and there’ll never be another one. There’s never going to be another Stradivarius.”

Experts estimate 600 to 650 Stradivarius instruments remain — about half of what the master produced.

One of the most famous is the Gibson Strad, now owned by virtuoso Joshua Bell. It was stolen from Carnegie Hall in 1936 and not found until the violinist who stole it died in the 1980s.

FBI special agent David Bass, an expert in art crime, said Stradivarius thefts are reported every few years but most instruments are found — some quickly and in good condition.

A Stradivarius stolen from a South Korean musician in 2010 while she ate at a London sandwich shop was found about three years later at a property in central England. Three people were convicted in that theft.

The Lipinski Stradivarius was taken from Frank Almond, concertmaster for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, as he walked to his car after a Jan. 27 performance at Wisconsin Lutheran College.

Mark Niehaus, the orchestra’s president and executive director, said the instrument appeared in good shape, but Almond, who also teaches music at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., was out of town and still needed to inspect it.

The violin was on loan to Almond by its owner. Such arrangements are common in classical music in part because most artists can’t afford instruments worth millions of dollars. The owners benefit as well because use keeps the instruments in good shape and can add to their value.

“When famous people play these instruments it builds what we call the instrument’s provenance,” Bonsey said. “It adds to the value of the instrument down the road.”