Stolen Stradivarius violin found, trio of suspects arrested

Concertmaster Frank Almond plays a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was on loan to him during a concert in Milwaukee
AP Photo/Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

MILWAUKEE - Officials in Milwaukee say they have solved a violin crime -a  rare multi-million dollar Stradivarius stolen from a concertmaster last month has been recovered, authorities announced Thursday.

The news comes just after prosecutors confirmed Wednesday that three people had been arrested in connection with the theft of the rare instrument, said to be worth millions of dollars.

Two men, ages 41 and 36, and a 32-year-old woman, are in custody and could be in Milwaukee County Circuit Court Thursday.

The violin, which authorities say appears to be in perfect condition, was recovered Wednesday night at the home of one of the suspect's friends. They say they don't know the motive for the theft.

The instrument was stolen from Frank Almond, concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony, in a brazen attack outside Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee Jan. 27.

Almond was walking to his car following a performance at the college when someone jumped out of a van, shocked him with a stun gun and seized the Stradivarius, which was on loan to him. The robber got back into the waiting vehicle, which sped off.

Almond was knocked to the ground but wasn't seriously hurt. He was devastated by the loss of the violin, which was crafted in 1715 and has been appraised for insurance purposes at $5 million. The owner of the violin has not been revealed but authorities said Thursday that the instrument would be returned to the owner shortly.

The violin is known in musical circles as the "Lipinski" Stradivarius. Its previous owners include virtuoso Giuseppe Tartini, who was known for his "Devil's Trill" Sonata, and Polish violinist Karol Lipinski.

It was passed down through generations, eventually landing with the heirs of Estonian violinist Evi Liivak, according to Stefan Hersh a Chicago-based violin curator who helped restore it to playing condition after it was removed from storage in a bank vault in 2008.

Estimates vary for the number of Stradivarius violins that still exist, said Lisbeth Butler, the secretary of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers. Most experts believe that 600 to 650 remain.