A turtle shell, vintage guns, a cannon and a cartoon painting of Albert Einstein.
These are only a few pieces of art and artifacts recently recovered that were apparently stolen during a series of burglaries nearly 30 years ago. Now, LAPD officials are working to find their rightful owners, officials announced Wednesday.
In June, police received a call from a “reputable” auction house indicating they had come across art that appeared to have been stolen, Capt. Lillian Carranza said during a news conference Wednesday.
Investigators eventually determined that the auction house was in possession of eight paintings that were stolen during a series of robberies in the West Los Angeles and Hollywood Hills areas decades ago.
During those incidents in the 1990s, burglars broke into homes while the owners were away and “handpicked,” art, artifacts and personal property, Carranza said.
With the help of Interpol, LAPD arrested two Armenian nationals in connection with some of the burglaries in 1993, but a lot of the stolen property hadn’t been recovered.
Until that phone call earlier this summer.
Investigators served four search warrants at storage facilities and found additional items, some that were verified as having been stolen during the series of crimes in the 90s, Carranza said.
Though detectives are still working to determine how much each of the items are worth now, the captain said price ranges are in the thousands of dollars.
Officials have partnered up with local museums, other auction houses and experts to identify the art, artists and prices. Carranza said that at the time one of the paintings was stolen, it was worth $60,000, and she suspects it is worth more today.
Among the items are six vintage guns, some dating back to the 1700s and World War II, officials said.
Some of the paintings and artifacts were not stored properly and appeared to be damaged, lead investigator Detective Mel Vergara said.
He said that it is unclear if the person who was found in possession of the art was involved in the original crimes. That person, however, was identified as a relative of one of the people involved in an extensive burglary ring decades ago, Vergara said. Police are continuing to investigate that person and whether or not he or she knew that the items were stolen.
He added that investigators are having trouble identifying the rightful owners of the items because many of the original police reports were vague and did not include photos. For some of the items, they only have a vague description to go by, like “painting of man.”
Investigators have found the rightful owner of one piece of art, but determined that person has died. They want to find a family member to return it to.
LAPD officials took detailed photographs of the recovered items and compiled a website, Foundbylapd.smugmug.com, for those looking to find their stolen items.
Anyone who recognizes a piece of recovered art can call the LAPD’s burglary special section unit at 213-486-6940.