Showing posts with label United States. Show all posts
Showing posts with label United States. Show all posts

February 15, 2017

Boston University Students Foil Art Gallery Robbery

Galerie D’Orsay owner Susan Hirshberg (CAS’90) with the Questrom students
who stopped a robbery at her gallery after the Super Bowl: Chris Savino (Questrom’17),
Mackenzie Thompson (Questrom’17), Hirshberg, and Jesse Doe (Questrom’17).

Guest Writer: Rich Barlow barlowr@bu.edu
Originally published in: BU Today

Chris Savino’s hometown of Ridgefield, Conn., was found to be “the safest town in America” last year by an online database of neighborhoods. But college is supposed to expand your horizons, and Boston exposed Savino and two fellow Questrom School of Business seniors face-to-face with a crime in the making last week.

They were the crime-fighters, thwarting an art gallery heist.

Walking back to campus after midnight February 6 from the Boston Common, where thousands of New England Patriots fans had been celebrating the team’s Super Bowl victory over the Atlanta Falcons just hours before, Savino (Questrom’17), Jesse Doe (Questrom’17), and Mackenzie Thompson (Questrom’17) came upon a man emerging from the smashed glass door of Galerie d’Orsay on Newbury Street [in Boston, Massachusetts] with five artworks worth $45,000. They chased and held 29-year-old Jordan Russell Leishman until a passing policeman arrested him for breaking and entering.

Arraigned in Boston Municipal Court, Leishman is being held without bail for a previous assault case, according to the Boston Globe. He’s also wanted in New Hampshire on a charge of narcotics possession.

Galerie d’Orsay’s managing partner happens to be a Terrier too. Sallie Hirshberg (CAS’90) met the three students for the first time this past Saturday at the gallery, where she’d arranged an interview with BU Today. (She lives in Florida and was in Boston for business.)

“I’m Sallie—thank you so much!” Hirshberg greeted the three students as they entered, hugging Thompson, who at 6-foot-3 had to bend down for the embrace. His size was crucial in foiling the robbery. The trio had chosen to return to campus via Newbury Street instead of nearby, more boisterous Boylston Street. “We were pretty much the only people there, except for a couple walking down the street,” Thompson says.

And except for Leishman.

The gallery’s surveillance video shows he had smashed the glass in the door, which opens into a small vestibule with an inner door. (The police report about the incident says rocks were found in the vestibule, and that both of Leishman’s hands had cuts.) He broke the glass in that door, too, then waited a good 20 minutes, Hirshberg says (perhaps to see if he’d tripped an alarm, she speculates). Finally, he wandered into the gallery, removing from the walls etchings by Picasso and Rembrandt and lithographs by Joan Miró and Marc Chagall.

“He took from Chagall’s most important body of work,” a lithograph from the Russian-French master’s Daphnis and Chloé series, she says. That piece, worth $18,000, is the most expensive he tried to snatch.

“He had good taste…he pulled a Miró, a Rembrandt, and two Chagalls,” she notes, but he passed up far more expensive works, among them a $90,000 Picasso and a Rembrandt valued at the same amount.

Leishman’s break-in triggered a motion-sensitive alarm, Hirshberg says. He left the largest of the artworks at the front door and proceeded down the steps with the other four, just as the BU students, with Thompson and Doe in the lead, were walking toward the gallery.

“I thought to myself, oh, he might be an employee just working there,” Thompson says. “But once we got right in front of the store, we heard the alarm, we saw the smashed glass, and he comes out with the paintings.” In a matter-of-fact tone, Thompson describes what he said to Doe: “‘I think he just stole those. We should probably do something.’”

They sprinted after Leishman. “He tried to book it,” dropping the paintings, Thompson says. But he wasn’t fast enough for Thompson, who caught him at the corner of Newbury and Berkeley Streets and grabbed him from behind in a bear hug. Acting on adrenaline, none of the pursuers had thought about whether Leishman might be armed, but as Thompson held him, his quarry tried to reach in his pockets. “I thought he might have been reaching for a weapon or something, so I pushed him up against a US mailbox on the corner, trying to pin his arms.” (The police report doesn’t mention Leishman having a weapon.)

Thompson says Leishman protested: “Why are you holding me so tight? You can let me go, I’m not going to run away.” Meanwhile, Savino held the paintings aloft to flag down a passing police car. When the officer approached, Thompson says, Leishman “tried pinning it on us, saying we jumped him.” The officer, obviously, didn’t buy it.

The three students were home by about 1 a.m., although the officer later called Thompson for more information. The police returned the paintings to the gallery, Hirshberg says, and called its operations director, who happened to be returning to Boston on a wee-hours flight. She had the broken doors boarded up to secure the gallery.

According to Hirshberg, the artwork was undamaged save for the gold-leaf frames, which will cost about $5,000 to repair. This was the first attempted robbery in the gallery’s 16 years. It also may be a footnote in Boston history: the officer told Thompson that during all that night’s raucous Super Bowl celebrating, this was the only arrest made in the city.

“I texted my parents later that night,” Savino says. Not wanting to worry them in the safest town in America, he began his text, “Everything’s OK,” before describing the experience. “I got a call five seconds later from my mom—you know, ‘What happened? What happened?’”

While Questrom might seem a little gray-flannel for such heroics—Doe plans to work at an accounting firm after graduation—this was Thompson’s second brush with crime-fighting. As a freshman, he witnessed two guys slashing car tires and yanking hubcaps off an auto at a tire shop on Comm Ave; he called police and drove around in the cop car until they found the suspects and arrested them.

The coincidence of the heroes being from Hirshberg’s alma mater registered less, she says, than the fact that she “was just so grateful. For them to step up and see something that was happening that wasn’t right, and to make it right, was just unbelievable.” In an age not renowned for kindness, she says, the Terrier trio wowed her with “a nice act of humanity.”

To express her gratitude, she’s asked the three students to an upcoming invitation-only opening at the gallery, where she says they can each choose an artwork as a thank-you gift. She’s offered to help them choose, which, given their status as business rather than art appreciation students, was welcome. “I wouldn’t call myself an art aficionado,” Thompson confesses.

Nothing wrong with business students, says Hirshberg: “I probably wouldn’t have the gallery if I hadn’t married the guy in my finance class at BU.”

October 11, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: "Getting Governments to Cooperate Against Looting: Insights from the American and British Experience" by Asif Efrat

In the Fall 2012 electronic issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Asif Efrat writes on "Getting Governments to Cooperate against Looting: Insights from the American and British Experience":
Why would countries that had long resisted the efforts against archaeological plunder reverse course and join these efforts?  The article solves this puzzle by examining the American and British decisions to join the 1970 UNESCO Convention.  Initially skeptical of UNESCO's endeavors, the United States and Britain changed their policies and came to support the international efforts in the early 1970s and early 2000s, respectively.  I argue that the two countries' policy shifts had similar causes.  First, archaeologists advocacy made policymakers aware of the damage caused by the illicit antiquities trade and the art world's complicity.  Second, public scandals exposed unethical behavior in the American and British art markets and demonstrated the need for regulation.  Third, the U. S. and British governments established domestic consensus in favor of regulation through advisory panels that included the major stakeholders: archaeologists, dealers, and museums.  Yet because of divergent bureaucratic attitudes, the U. S. government has ultimately been more vigorous in its efforts against the illicit antiquities trade than has the British government.
Dr. Efrat is Assistant Professor of Governmnet at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Israel.  He received his Ph.D. in government from Harvard University and has taught at Cornell Law School.  His book Governing Guns, Preventing Plunder: International Cooperation against Illicit Trade has been published by Oxford University Press.

Here's a link to the ARCA website and more information about subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime.

July 18, 2012

Noah Charney on "Art Crime in North America" in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

A shorter version of this lecture was delivered via Skype to the conference entitled “Contemporary Perspectives on the Detection, Investigation, and Prosecution of Art Crime,” organized by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Policingand Security (CEPS) at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia on May 1-2, 2012. An extended version, including citations and new edits, will be published in two upcoming academic publications, both organized by CEPS.
Today I’m pleased to speak about art crime in North America. It is refreshing for me not to have to introduce art crime in general—if anyone knows about it, it will be my fellow speakers. So many of us are obliged to begin talks with an introduction to art crime, because the extent of it, and the facts obscured by fiction, film, and media misinterpretation, create a screen that can be difficult to see beyond. Even the facts, presented by reputable sources like the US Department of Justice, are not always clear and coherent. They rank art crime as the third highest-grossing criminal trade worldwide, behind only the drug and arms trades. This is based on a study that my friend and colleague, Vernon Rapley, could tell you more about—it was a combined Interpol and Scotland Yard study that was also integrated into the UK Threat Assessment in 2006/2007. Another number that we hear is that art crime is worth $6 billion per year. Of course no one has any real idea, and that number is little more than an arbitrary guess. It could only reflect the estimated black market value of art registered as stolen (meaning 7-10% of its estimated auction value, which is itself an unscientific measurement). If that number is correct, then art crime cannot be the third highest- grossing criminal trade. The number is far too low, and human trafficking, even illegal traffic of plants and animals, might be considered higher. We simply don’t know, which can be frustrating—it is also one of the reasons why art crime has gone relatively understudied until recent years. Criminologists shy away from a field such as this, which lacks extensive and accurate empirical data, and relies on macro-analysis from anecdotal material and the experience of those in the field, often related orally or even through the unreliable filter of the media.

April 20, 2012

Looted Nuraghic bronze statuettes from Sardinia Sold in Germany and the United States according to the Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection unit in Sassari

Translation by Francesca Rossi, Our Correspondent in Amelia

ARCA blog asked Ms. Rossi to translate the first part of the article "Germania e Usa le ultime mete dei bronzetti trafugati" (Germany and the USA are the destinations for looted bronzes) published by Casteddu.online, a daily newspaper in Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia.

Forced to emigrate even after two or three thousands years spent in Sardinia: crammed into trucks or inside a bag between trousers and shirts, in the aircraft hold. They make stopovers of four to five years in Switzerland, ‘cause the rest is good (and certainly allows the dust to settle). And then they cross the continents: to the United States or Canada on one side, Japan on the other. This is the clandestine journey of nacelles and Nuraghic bronze statuettes. A new emergency, according to Paolo Montorsi, Commander of the Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection nucleus of Sassari, who, during a conference organized by the Carabinieri during the Week of Culture, spoke about this argument.

The phenomenon of illegal excavations has declined compared to previous years, though. “Probably – clarified Montorsi – because the valuable pieces are already gone”. This doesn’t mean the Carabinieri do let their guard down: there’s a new line of investigation, which obviously is still secret, that takes us in Germany and United States. Pieces easy to take away because of their reduced dimensions, but of great value: some of those bronze statues, in the black market, are valued about 20.000€/cm.

In particular, the highest number of illegal excavations is recorded in the area of Nuoro. “It’s very important when a theft is reported – explained Montorsi – to provide a photo of the stolen handwork, so it can be inserted in a database interacting with the Interpol.”