Violin heist ends on sour note for suspects

MILWAUKEE, Wis. - Frank Almond remembers the moment a thief took his 300-year-old partner: A $5 million violin.  

“He got a little closer and closer and saw a couple of flashing lights and apparently that’s what happens just before, just before you get hit with a taser,” Almond told CBS News. “It just didn’t really feel that great.” 

Frank Almond plays his 300-year-old Stradivarius violin.
CBS News
 Almond was assaulted after a concert in January. The thieves made off with what is known as the Lipinski Strad, a violin created by the Italian Master, Antonio Stradivari in 1715.

“I was probably as close to I’ve ever been to being completely hysterical,” Almond said. “The only thing I can compare it to is maybe watching one of your children get kidnapped.”

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn recalled his men first telling him about some guy who had a violin swiped.

“I say, ‘no! He didn’t get his violin stolen. This is a Stradivarius. Start thinking millions of dollars,’” Flynn said.

A fired taser drops small pieces of paper with a serial number. That led police to its owner and a sidekick whose identities meshed with tips from the community.

On Monday, two men named Universal Knowledge Allah, and Salah Salahadyn were in custody. The violin was recovered two days later in an attic.

A perfect crime?

“It was fairly well thought out and well planned up to a point,” Flynn said. “What wasn't well planned was like 'now what?'”

The working theory is that the suspects thought they could sell it for big money, though to whom was not clear. The worry was that they might have damaged it during the heist, but, as Almond demonstrated for CBS News, the violin is just fine.

Asked if either of the suspects know how to play the violin, Flynn responded: “No. It's our hope that one of them will have a lot of time to learn.”
  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.