Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures

By Robert K. Wittman, John Shiffman

The Wall road magazine called him “a residing legend.” The London occasions dubbed him “the most famed paintings detective within the world.”
 
In Priceless, Robert ok. Wittman, the founding father of the FBI’s artwork Crime staff, pulls again the curtain on his notable occupation for the 1st time, providing a real-life foreign mystery to rival The Thomas Crown Affair.   
 
Rising from humble roots because the son of an vintage broker, Wittman equipped a twenty-year profession that was once not anything in need of striking. He went undercover, frequently unarmed, to capture paintings thieves, scammers, and black industry investors in Paris and Philadelphia, Rio and Santa Fe, Miami and Madrid.
 
In this page-turning memoir, Wittman fascinates with the tales in the back of his recoveries of important artwork and antiquities: The golden armor of an historic Peruvian warrior king. The Rodin sculpture that encouraged the Impressionist stream. The headdress Geronimo wore at his ultimate Pow-Wow. The infrequent Civil warfare conflict flag carried into conflict through one of many nation’s first African-American regiments.
 
The breadth of Wittman’s exploits is unequalled: He traveled the area to rescue work by means of Rockwell and Rembrandt, Pissarro, Monet and Picasso, usually operating undercover in another country on the whim of overseas governments. towards domestic, he recovered an unique replica of the invoice of Rights and cracked the rip-off that rocked the PBS sequence Antiques Roadshow.
 
By the FBI’s accounting, Wittman stored hundreds of thousands of hundreds of thousands of bucks worthy of paintings and antiquities. He says the statistic isn’t very important. in the end, who’s to assert what's worthy extra --a Rembrandt self-portrait or an American flag carried into conflict? they are either priceless. 
 
The paintings thieves and scammers Wittman stuck run the gamut from wealthy to terrible, clever to silly, geared up criminals to determined loners.  The smuggler who introduced him a looted 6th-century treasure grew to become out to be a high-ranking diplomat.  The appraiser who stole numerous heirlooms from struggle heroes’ descendants used to be a slick, aristocratic con man.  The museum janitor who made off with locks of George Washington's hair simply desired to make a number of additional greenbacks, figuring nobody could leave out what he’d filched.
 
In his ultimate case, Wittman known as on each piece of data and adventure in his arsenal to tackle his maximum problem: operating undercover to trace the vicious criminals in the back of what could be the main audacious artwork robbery of all. 

From the Hardcover edition.

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He parted his silver hair at the left and wore a well trimmed salt-and-pepper mustache. His boss retrieved him from a task and he met us brightly. “What am i able to do for you, fellas? ” “We need assistance with an research relating to Civil struggle artifacts,” I stated. “George, we wish to seek advice from you approximately a few swords. ” Csizmazia became ashen. “Ernie instructed you, didn’t he? ” Ernie was once the janitor, the one museum worker we hadn’t interviewed. I shot Thompson a glance. “Of course,” I bluffed. “That’s why we’re the following. ” “So the place are the swords, George? ” Thompson requested. “At my condo. I’ll take you to them. ” Csizmazia lived along with his spouse in a modest two-story domestic in a working-class suburb referred to as Rutledge, a couple of miles southwest of Philadelphia foreign Airport. He led us upstairs, and we undefined. He took us to a bed room door; the door had extra locks and alarm structures than any room at HSP. As he opened the door, he stated, “I name this my museum. ” the instant we entered, I knew our pudgy little electrician was once a thief on a grand scale, accountable for the robbery of greater than 3 swords and a rifle. 2 hundred museum-worthy items from the eighteenth and 19th centuries covered the partitions and crowded reveal tables. As I rotated the room, I silently counted twenty-five presentation swords and fifty firearms, diverse rifles, muskets, pistols, and revolvers. worthy relics from early Americana crammed the room—an ivory tea caddy; a brass carriage clock; a Victorian silver whistle; a teetering stack of U. S. Mint Indian ten-dollar gold cash; a tortoiseshell cigar holder; a couple of Revolutionary-era oval cuff hyperlinks; a Georgian silver watch with a tumbler face; a pear-shaped silver sugar bowl; mother-of-pearl opera glasses in a leather-based case; a mahogany toy chest of drawers. It used to be all caliber stuff. Csizmazia performed coy, rambling on in regards to the vagaries of provenance within the army collectibles industry. My companion and that i didn’t say a lot. We simply stood within the room, surrounded via a lot heritage, loads facts. We stared on the items after which we stared at Csizmazia. We permit the silence hold, realizing he couldn’t aid yet try and fill it. He fidgeted and fidgeted and at last pointed to a Mayflower-era sword. “I use that to trim my hedges! ” I gave him a glance that stated we weren't amused. My associate crossed his palms sternly. “George,” I stated. “Come on. Don’t insult us, huh? ” Csizmazia dropped his eyes. “OK. ” He led us to the storage and opened a wide cardboard garment field. inside of, we discovered $1 million worthy of presentation swords, together with the 3 lacking from HSP. there has been loads stuff to grab we known as for backup. all over the place I appeared I observed background. I picked up an early-nineteenth-century silver presentation wine cooler and marveled on the stylized swan-head handles, the chased rim, and an etched reduction of Philadelphia’s well-known Fairmount Water Works. I positioned it down and eyed a gold presentation watch with a double woven chain so long as my arm. I flipped it over to learn the tiny inscription. “Presented to Maj.

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