The case of a brazen art theft from a Pebble Beach home -- which would be the second-biggest art heist ever, if it actually happened -- has disolved into public finger-pointing between the cops and the victims-turned-suspects.
Police say they've been manipulated by the owners of the collection, A. Benjamin Amadio and Ralph Kennaugh. According to police, there is no evidence that the art collection ever existed, there is no evidence of a break-in at the Pebble Beach house, and Amadio and Kennaugh have been uncooperative with the investigation.
For their part, Amadio and Kennaugh say that the police botched the investigation. They say police took four days to take fingerprints -- an accusation the police deny -- and that witnesses have seen the paintings and a provenance proving ownership. They plan to release this evidence at a press conference on Friday.
"We think the sheriff's office reeks of corruption and incompetence," Amadio said.
The evidence includes a list of all the stolen paintings and photos of the paintings, as well as the witnesses who say the collection, an attorney for the owners said.
Commander Mike Richards said the sheriff's department is still investigating the theft, but is also investigating other possibilitiies -- including that the reported theft is a hoax. Amadio and Kennaugh are now suspects, he said.
The 16-piece collection, which included works by Jackson Pollock, Miro, Rembrandt and Van Gogh, was stolen on Sept. 25, according to Kennaugh and Amadio. The last appraisal of the collection valued the works at $27 million, but Amadio contends that the art could worth as much as $80 million.
"We feel manipulated," Richards said Tuesday. "The bottom line is, this is a simple investigation. It can be made a lot easier with the cooperation of the victims. We've been blocked the entire way on this thing."
Richards added that the department has asked Amadio and Kennaugh to take a polygraph test. Amadio said that it won't happen, and that the Sheriff's Department is "without evidence attacking our character."
Both Amadio, an entrepreneur, and Kennaugh, a former Harvard medical professor, are originally from Boston.