February 16th, 2006

The Times-Tribune – News – 01/27/2006 – Painting owner has idea on heist

BY CHRIS BIRK STAFF WRITER & mdash; 01/27/2006

The Scranton native who lent the now-infamous Jackson Pollock work stolen from the Everhart Museum said he believes the November heist was an inside job and has provided the FBI with the name of his No. 1 suspect.

He wouldn’t explain his suspicions or divulge the name of his prime suspect, but told The Associated Press on Thursday that his information is based on official accounts of the burglary and personal knowledge of the museum’s security.

Efforts to reach the painting’s owner, who in past interviews with The Times-Tribune has requested anonymity in fear of jeopardizing his art collections, were unsuccessful Thursday night.

FBI officials in Philadelphia refused to say whether they have received this information.

Everhart spokesman Joe Palumbo said federal investigators have not notified the museum regarding the donor’s purported claims.

“We have no reason to believe it was an inside job,” Mr. Palumbo said. “We have no more information than we had at the beginning of this investigation. We know nothing of any suspect, nor has the FBI said that they felt it was an inside job.”

The 1949 oil-on-canvas “Springs Winter” and an Andy Warhol silkscreen were stolen Nov. 18. The FBI continues to investigate the thefts, despite problems in authenticating the Pollock work. It doesn’t appear in Mr. Pollock’s catalogue of known works, and museum officials have been unable to confirm that it is genuine.

The owner said after the theft that he bought “Springs Winter” directly from Mr. Pollock, and purposely kept it out of the limelight. He said he never had it appraised or insured.

He also indicated that he was “absolutely uninformed about who works (at the Everhart Museum) and who doesn’t.”

“They didn’t have as sophisticated a situation as, let’s say, a bagel shop might have,” the Pollock’s owner said in November of the museum’s security set-up. “I wouldn’t have taken it up there if I had planned to lose it, but I thought it would be safe there.”

Authorities in late December characterized the painting’s owner as less than cooperative, saying he had refused to answer many questions. At the time, he acknowledged he had little to say to Scranton police, but also said the FBI has more important crimes to deal with.

Museum officials have said the Pollock work was covered under its blanket insurance policy that protects its entire collection. But Mr. Palumbo on Thursday said because the painting was on loan, the museum would not be able to collect insurance money.

STACY BROWN, staff writer, contributed to this report.

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I have one simple question: if it was an informed theft by a knowledgeable inside party, why did they bother with the practically-worthless Warhol? There are much more valuable paintings at the Everhart.

UPDATE: Feb 17, 2006 Okay, this article on the real-vs-fake prattle from the Times-Tribune says the Warhol value is now $100K. WHAT?!?? That’s absolutely ridiculous. I wouldn’t have guessed it was worth $8K. Something fishy….

Mr. Murray said O’Toole-Ewalt determined that the Warhol painting was worth $100,000. The Warhol’s value had been listed at $15,000 to $30,000.

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