From the art world to the underworld

From the Wall Street Journal: From the Art World to the Underworld.

Shortly after 9 a.m. on June 4, three men drove to a seaside promenade near Marseilles, their van carrying paintings by Brueghel, Sisley and Monet. The art had been stolen at gunpoint from the Museum of Fine Arts in Nice last August. Now a Frenchman working for an American art dealer was supposed to show up and buy four works for $4.6 million in cash. Instead, nearly a dozen French police cars pulled up, led by a colonel for the gendarmerie who quickly took a call from Pennsylvania. "We got them!" Col. Pierre Tabel shouted into his cellphone.

The caller was Robert Wittman, an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation who had acted as the American "dealer" and orchestrated the sting. Mr. Wittman thanked the colonel and celebrated alone, drinking a mug of coffee on his back porch while his wife slept.

Mr. Wittman is one of the world’s top art-crime investigators. His specialty is going undercover. The 52-year-old has spent two decades impersonating shady dealers and befriending thieves. In all, he’s tracked down $225 million in missing objects, including a Rembrandt self-portrait and [continue]

Link found here at Uncertain Times.