February 6, 2014

Lipinski Stradivarius, Milwaukee: Highlights from the Milwaukee Police press conference on the theft and recovery of the violin loaned to the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

By Lynda Albertson

During today’s noon press conference regarding the theft and recovery of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's Lipinski Stradivarius, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said: “There are good days and there are bad days. Today is a good day.” Barrett then went on to state that the investigation into the recovery of the violin was due in large part to the model cooperation between the Milwaukee Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and the helpful citizens of the city.

Chief Edward Flynn of the Milwaukee Police Department indicated that during the course of the investigation officers followed up on various tips phoned in to both the police department’s tip line and others phoned in directly to the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

In investigating several possible leads the Milwaukee Police Department and members of the FBI's art squad, including Special Agent David Bass looked into local “taser” buyers in the Milwaukee area.  In the course of their research the self defense products firm Taser International provided information to investigating officers which included the name of one Michigan purchaser, Universal Knowledge Allah, who’s identity proved critical in the arrest and recovery of the Stradivarius.  

Following the execution of five separate search warrants, officers detained three suspects.  Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn described those arrested as two men ages 41 and 36 and one  32 year old woman, who was later described as being the possible driver of the get-away car. 

While two of the subjects brought in for questioning were not directly named during the official law enforcement press conference, the following three individuals were listed by Wisconsin News and Radio Station 620WTMJ as the three individuals brought in by the police for questioning yesterday:  Universal Allah, Salah Jones and Latoya Atlas.  One of these three suspects, Salah Jones, is a 41-year-old Milwaukee resident once linked to the theft of the $25,000 statue "Woman with Fruit" by Nicolas Africano from the Michael Lord Gallery on November 7, 1995.

Conversations with one of the three detainees led to police requesting a sixth search warrant Wednesday night, February 5th for a home located on E. Smith Street on Milwaukee's south east side.  Upon executing the search warrant, the Lipinski Stadivarius was recovered in what appears to be good or excellent condition stored in a suitcase in the house's attic.

The residence where the violin was recovered appears to have been an acquaintance of one of the detained individuals brought in for questioning.   Police did not indicate to reporters that this individual had any involvement in the theft. While no formal charges have yet been filed, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm indicated that charges are likely to be filed against at least one of the suspects as early as Friday. 

No information was available at the press conference regarding whether or not any of the leads in the recovery warranted all or part of the $100,000 reward offered by an anonymous donor for information leading to the safe return of the Lipinski Stradivarius.

Here's a link to the announcement by the Milwaukee Police regarding finding the Lipinski Stradivarius violin.

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