November 21, 2016

Museum Theft: 170-year-old painting stolen from the Paterson Museum

Photo: Courtesy of the Paterson Museum
A 170-year-old painting of the Great Falls over the Passaic River has been reported stolen from inside the director's office Paterson Museum in Paterson, New Jersey. 

The paintings was set to be displayed in an upcoming exhibition honoring the 225th anniversary of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufacturers, a group of industrialists led by Alexander Hamilton who helped give birth to America's first planned industrial city by harnessing the hydro power of the Great Falls for the city's manufacturing mills.

Outline of Theft

Theft Venue: The Paterson Museum
Location: Lower Market Street in the Great Falls historic district of Paterson, Passaic County, New Jersey
Location in Venue: Stolen from a stack of paintings secured in the director's office for an upcoming exhibition
Victim (Owner): James Eifler, collector (Painting was on loan to the museum)

Time of Theft:  Actual date and time of theft unknown, but likely within the week leading up to its announced theft on November 14, 2016 and during the period where Election Day and Veterans Day made for a shortened work week. It has been speculated that the painting was possibly stolen during the day as the building's security alarm and motion detectors were not triggered.
Open/Closed: Unknown
Duration of Crime: Unknown
When Discovered: Not immediately, the museum director, Giacomo DeStefano, has stated that there were no signs of a break-in at the museum.  DeStefano gave statements saying that the artwork had been stored in his first-floor office inside the museum and he realized it was missing on Monday, November 14, 2016. 
Primary Object(s) Taken: Untitled, unsigned oil-on-wood painting depicting the Great Falls, appraised at approximately $9,000 prior to the theft.  Painting is believed to have been painted by an unknown artist sometime in the 1840s.  This date is given as there is a wooden bridge depicted in the landscape across the falls from that era.
Category of Art Object(s): oil on wood painting, approximately 60 cm x 60 cm
Ancillary Object(s) Touched: None, The unnamed Great Falls painting was one of two loaned to the museum for the upcoming exhibition by Eifler.  The second painting, by 19th-century landscape artist Julian Walbridge Rix, was more valuable than the unsigned work, yet it was left untouched in the same office. The museum's director has speculated that the thief may have chosen the unsigned painting as it was slightly smaller than the Rix work.
Ancillary Object(s) Taken: None
Clues Left at Crime Scene: None mentioned in museum's public statements
Suspected Related Crimes: None mentioned in police reports

Entry Method: Thief or thieves walked into the director's office and removed the painting.  The director has stated that his office door is kept locked, except during business hours.
Exit Method: Unknown, the museum is not equipped with CCTV. 
Operational Method: Unknown
Other Notes: The paintings owner, James Eifler has publically speculated that the thief was likely familiar with the museum’s gallery and office areas and was perhaps aware that there are no CCTV cameras in the museum.

According to court documents, in 2005, the paintings owner was charged with insurance fraud for submitting false claims to State Farm about his tools being stolen. Eifler was paid $3,800 for his claim, but the insurance company then contacted law enforcement authorities when he submitted additional claims totalling $12,000 in losses according to the New Jersey Attorney General's Office.  Eifler was later convicted of two counts of insurance fraud, fined $600 and sentenced to probation for one year.

Probable Motive: possibly financial
Follow-up after Post-theft: According to museum director DeStefano, the museum will undergo a review of its security process. Paterson police are checking video footage from other security cameras in Paterson in the area as part of their investigation.  Deputy Police Chief Heriberto Rodriguez is leading the investigation into the theft.

Revised Motive Theory: No details released publically

Identified People Involved in the Crime No details released publically
Handler(s): No details released publically
Accomplice(s): No details released publically
Organization(s) Involved: No details released publically
Ultimate Possessor: No details released publically
Arrests: None
Total Length of Investigation: Ongoing

Evidence Used In Prosecution: No details released publically
Criminal Sentencing: Not applicable at this time

Artwork Recovered: No

For information on this theft, please contact the Paterson Police Department's Major Crimes division.

Officer in Charge: Detective Captain Heriberto Rodriguez

Office: (973) 321-1120

Fax: (973) 321-1122