The Sheriff’s department is following some new leads in the investigation of a Rembrandt drawing stolen from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Marina del Rey.
Investigators have been pouring over surveillance video and plan to have a composite sketch of the suspect within a few days. They hope to catch the thief before it is sold on the black market.
Beverly Hills art dealer Kevin Anderson said while there is a black market for stolen art work, it’s pretty tough to break into. On top of that, he said, the thief will have a very difficult time unloading it.
“They don’t know what they’re going to do with the drawing… they’ll find out very quickly they can’t sell it because they’re going to get caught,” said Anderson.
The LA county sheriff’s department said the drawing by the Dutch master is worth $250,000.
It was part of a private exhibit in the lobby of the hotel. Investigators believe someone may have swiped it during a 15-minute window, while the curator was distracted by a hotel guest who appeared to want to make a purchase.
Anderson said photos of stolen works of art are immediately logged on an art loss registry web site. By doing this, dealers are alerted to be on the lookout.
High end, experienced art thieves usually target insurance companies and trade the stolen art for much less than its value.
“The art thieves know they can’t resell the painting but they’ll basically hold the painting hostage to the insurance company. Saying ‘listen, we know you have this work insured at five million dollars. Give us a million in a paper bag and the painting will show up on the corner at the courthouse’ kind of thing,” said Anderson.
Anderson said less experienced thieves who can’t sell stolen pieces on the black market may hand off the art to another criminal.
“The drawing enters a kind of grey market where it’s traded among low level criminals for drugs, money and IOU’s… and finally it surfaces usually,” said Anderson.
Investigators said Rembrandt work is often targeted by thieves. About 81 Rembrandt pieces of art have been stolen over the past century.