Several people from Pennsylvania faced federal charges after allegedly conspiring to break into museums and other institutions to steal classic works of art and championship trophies and rings once belonging to the sports world's biggest stars and events.
Among the items were the paintings by Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollack, Yogi Berra's World Series rings, Roger Maris' MVP Trophy, championship boxing belts from the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., and trophies from National Racing Museum & Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., according to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
The crimes took place over 20 years, said Gerard Karam, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
A federal grand jury indicted Nicholas Dombek, 53, Damien Boland, 47, Alfred Atsus, 47, and Joseph Atsus, 48, on conspiracy to commit theft of major artwork, concealment or disposal of objects of cultural heritage, interstate transportation of stolen property, theft of major artwork and concealment or disposal of objects of cultural heritage, and Dombek was also charged with interstate transportation of stolen property, the U.S. attorney said.
Five other individuals were charged with felonies for the same conspiracy: Thomas Trotta, 48, Frank Tassiello, 50, Daryl Rinker, 50, Dawn Trotta, 51, and Ralph Parry, 45, Karam said.
He said among the items the nine individuals conspired to steal were:
- A Christy Mathewson jersey and two contracts signed by Mathewson stolen in 1999 from Keystone College in Factoryville, Pennsylvania
- “Le Grande Passion” by Andy Warhol, and “Springs Winter” by Jackson Pollock, stolen in 2005 from the Everhart Museum, Scranton, Pennsylvania
- Nine World Series rings, seven other championship rings and two MVP plaques awarded to Yogi Berra, worth over $1,000,000 and stolen in 2014 from the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center in Little Falls, N.J.
- Six championship belts, including four awarded to Carmen Basilio and two awarded to Tony Zale, stolen in 2015 from the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota
- The Hickok Belt and MVP Trophy awarded to Roger Maris, stolen in 2016 from the Roger Maris Museum in Fargo, N.D.
- Fourteen trophies and other awards worth over $300,000 stolen in 2012 from the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y.
- Five trophies worth over $400,000, including the 1903 Belmont Stakes Trophy, stolen in 2013 from the National Racing Museum & Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
- “Upper Hudson” by Jasper Cropsey, worth approximately $500,000, and two antique firearms worth over $300,000, stolen in 2011 from Ringwood Manor, Ringwood, N.J.
The conspirators took the stolen goods to northeastern Pennsylvania, often to Dombek's home, and melted them down into metal discs or bars for transport, which they sold to other individuals in the New York City area for hundreds or thousands of dollars, but far less than their original estimated value, federal prosecutors said.
Dombek allegedly burned the “Upper Hudson” painting by Jasper Cropsey to avoid its recovery by investigators. The whereabouts of many of the other paintings and stolen objects is unknown.
The mayor of Canstota, N.Y., the home of the Boxing Hall of Fame, said the small village was relieved, but saddened by the update.
"It is with heavy hearts that we learned that the belts are assumed to be destroyed and will not be returned to the Hall of Fame," Mayor Rosanne Warner said. "The belts belonged to hometown hero and Canastota native Carmen Basilio and to Tony Zale, otherwise known as the ‘Man of Steel’ from Gary, Indiana.”
The case was investigated by the FBI and several state and local police departments.