A Thomas Crown-like art heist from Pebble Beach has hit an information snag.
Amid speculation that the $80 million art theft may actually be a hoax, both the police and the victims -- who have gotten plenty of face time with the media for the past week -- have clammed up. Police promise a news conference early this week, but the owners of the collection say they are done talking.
Monterey County investigators told KSBW that a hoax is one option of many they are considering as they hunt down clues in the mysterious caper. Benjamin Amadio, one of the owners, said he wished it was a hoax, adding, "It's not."
The intrigue began on Friday, September 25. That's when Amadio and Dr. Ralph Kennaugh called police to report they had been robbed. More than a dozen paintings worth millions of dollars were reported to be stolen.
The collection was initally estimated to be worth $27 million, but that number ballooned to $80 million by mid-week.
Monterey County called in crime experts from Southern California. The owners of the collection called in their own private investigator.
Amadio and Kennaugh welcomed reporters into their home to talk about the heist for the first several days, but the on-camera interviews were replaced by a press release last Thursday that criticized local law enforcement.
"Some questions have arisen regarding the delayed response of local law enforcement in Monterey County, Calif," the release said
Amadio and Kennaugh said they reported the crime at 6:50 p.m. on a Friday, but the sheriff's office didn't send fingerprint experts or detectives to the scene until the following Tuesday.
Tuesday is also the day a ransom note was reportedly found. Who found the note is a fact that seems to be changing as the days pass. The owners first told a KSBW reporter a business associate found the note, but later said police found it. The couple's press release then listed the finder as the associate. No one will say how much money was demanded or whether the owners intend to pay it.
They say it read, "Pay up or die."
The owners have said from the beginning that they believe the heist was an inside job and that the chances of getting their art back were slim.
Here's what was reported stolen:
- G.H. Rothe (Three pieces)
- Jackson Pollock (One piece)
- Matisse (One piece)
- Miro (Four pieces)
- Rembrandt (Two pieces)
- Renoir (One piece)
- Van Gogh (One piece)
There are two rewards being offered in the case. Both are by the owners who say they will pay one million for the return of the stolen artwork, and $5 million if the tip leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
Amadio and Kennaugh are originally from Massachusetts. The house where the heist took place is a rental while they search for a permanent home. Amadio is an entrepreneur. Kennaugh is a retired professor at Harvard University.