Los Angeles: The internet played a large part in capturing a career criminal from Los Angeles who traveled all the way to Paris, France, to sell two rare violins, which were stolen from a Hollywood home last December.
Anthony E. Notarstefano, 42, was arrested by French art police on March 5, 2007. Antique dealers became suspicious of Notarstefano when he approached them to sell each violin for $50,000. At least one of the dealers searched the internet for evidence that either violin was stolen. He found both violins listed on www.LAPDonline.org, which has a special page dedicated to stolen art.
Los Angeles Philharmonic violinist Mark Kashper discovered his Jean Baptiste Vuillaume violin, valued at $50,000 missing. The 18th century Carlos Tononi violin, valued at $250,000, was also taken from the Hollywood home. The latter violin belonged to the Philharmonic. Kashper’s bedroom had been ransacked a couple days before Christmas. His wallet was found later in an alley a few miles away.
When Notarstefano returned to the art dealer’s shop to sell the violins, French authorities arrested him and retrieved both violins. Notarstefano did not have the violins’ bows, one of which, a Tourte bow, is valued at $30,000 alone.
"The art dealers deserve a lot of credit," said LAPD spokesman Lieutenant Paul Vernon. "They apparently knew the value of the violins and smelled a rat. I’m sure their diligent actions will reassure their regular patrons in future transactions."
The art dealers may be eligible for part or all of a $10,000 reward that was offered for the instruments’ return.
LAPD art detectives have traced Notarstefano’s travels around the time of the burglary. He flew to Amsterdam with his dog, Jumper, then traveled to Paris to sell the violins. Notarstefano is a Los Angeles career criminal with arrests in Los Angeles and Long Beach.
The French investigation is being handled by Jean-Luc Taltavull, who is the Commissaire de Police, Brigade de Repression du Banditisme.
Los Angeles detectives Don Hrycyk or Stephanie Lazarus can be reached at 213-485-2524. The Los Angeles office of the FBI also assisted with this investigation.