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That Rembrandt rip-off at the Ritz? Small potatoes

August 15, 2011|By Christopher Reynolds | Los Angeles Times staff writer
  • A Rembrandt drawing titled "The Judgment," said to be valued at more than $250,000, was stolen Saturday in Marina del Rey.
A Rembrandt drawing titled "The Judgment," said to be valued… (…)

Suddenly, those towels and robes and magazines and pens and stationery and slippers you swiped from the Paris Hilton don’t seem like such a big deal, do they?

Not when you consider Saturday night, when one or more thieves engineered an art theft at the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey Hotel. While security staffers and a curator were looking elsewhere, Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials said, somebody swiped a 6-by-11-inch Rembrandt pen-and-ink drawing worth an estimated $250,000.  

The drawing, titled “The Judgment,” belonged to the Linearis Institute of San Francisco, which was exhibiting works at the hotel, a common practice. Hotel and Institute officials declined comment for a Times article published Monday. Sheriff’s officials called the heist “a well-thought-out and well-planned theft” that defied considerable security measures.

But when you set this case alongside a few other hotel heists worldwide over the years -- well, you'd have to rank it as a three- or four-star crime, certainly not five.

At the Hotel Pierre in New York, in January 1972, a group of men in disguise robbed the host of about $11 million in cash and jewelry, much of which had been placed in deposit boxes after New Year’s Eve celebrations. Two of the thieves were later jailed, and the event inspired a 1987 book by New York Timessports columnist Ira Berkow.

At the Carlton Hotel in Cannes, France, in August 1994, three machine-gun-wielding thieves grabbed an estimated $45 million in gems from the hotel jewelry shop and got away.

In December 2010, at the Bellagio hotel and casino in Las Vegas, a handgun-toting man in a white helmet stole $1.5 million in high-value chips from a craps table (some were worth $25,000 each) and zipped off on a black motorcycle.  

In February, authorities arrested Anthony Carleo, 29-year-old son of a Las Vegas municipal judge, who had been staying and gambling unsuccessfully at the Bellagio in the weeks after the crime. Undercover police caught him trying to sell some of the $25,000 chips. In June of this year, Carleo pleaded guiltyto the theft. The Las Vegas Sun reported that he faces sentencing Aug. 23.

Rembrandt van Rijn’s drawing “The Judgment” dates to about 1655. The 11-by-6-inch art work is valued at more than $250,000. Sheriff’s Department investigators suspect the thief had accomplices. ( / August 15, 2011)

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