Violin Worth $5 Million Makes A Safe Return Home

Police in Milwaukee have recovered a Stradivarius violin and arrested three suspects in its theft. The instrument, said to be worth approximately $5 million, was stolen in a brazen armed robbery from the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra late last month. Mitch Teich of WUWM in Milwaukee reports on the violin's recovery.

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A rare Stradivarius violin stolen in a brazen armed robbery in Milwaukee last month has been recovered. Mitch Teich, of member station WUWM, reports three people have been arrested as well.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIOLIN MUSIC)

MITCH TEICH, BYLINE: This is what the Lipinski Stradivarius sounds like, playing the Bach Partita for Solo Violin in E major.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIOLIN MUSIC)

TEICH: It sounded like that, more or less, since it was made by Antonio Stradivari in 1715. But no one has heard it since January 27th, when Milwaukee Symphony concertmaster Frank Almond was shot with a taser and the $5 million instrument stolen after a concert. As far as anyone knows, this was the first time a taser has been involved in a case like this - a detail whose significance was not lost on Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn.

EDWARD FLYNN: Obviously, this was a shocking crime, literally and figuratively, to the community.

TEICH: Chief Flynn says it turns out that detail was also key to finding the suspects, who led them to the violin.

FLYNN: We worked very closely with Taser International, who provided us invaluable information that the FBI was able to track down for us in Texas. That information led us to an individual who had purchased this device.

TEICH: A second suspect in the case was convicted in another Milwaukee art theft 20 years ago involving a sculpture. A third suspect was also arrested.

Police around the world have been on the lookout for the violin but art theft experts thought it was likely it hadn't left the city. That turned out to be true. It was recovered, undamaged, last night in the attic of a Milwaukee home.

Residents here have been outraged by the theft. Many, including Mayor Tom Barrett, expressed relief today. Barrett also expressed surprise when he learned he'd recently gotten a haircut from one of the suspects.

MAYOR TOM BARRETT: I'm sitting in the chair with the white sheet around me, getting my hair cut. I didn't suspect anything, although, I did think it was odd that there was violin resin all over the place. No, just kidding there.

(LAUGHTER)

TEICH: Concertmaster Frank Almond is scheduled to give a recital of music linked to the Lipinski Stradivarius next week.

For NPR News, I'm Mitch Teich in Milwaukee.

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