FBI's Art Crime Team Recovers Thousands of Missing Pieces of Art, Artifacts

Specialized unit trained to combat increase in art fraud, theft cases

The FBI has recovered at least 2,650 missing pieces of art or historical artifacts, many of which were stolen, since 2004, according to a review by the NBC Washington I-Team.

The cases were managed by the agency’s Art Crime Team, a specialized unit of agents formed and trained to combat a rising number of art fraud and theft cases.

Cases reviewed by the I-Team include the recent recovery of a stolen historic letter authored by Charles Darwin in the 1870s. The letter was stolen in the 1970s from the Smithsonian Archives in Washington, D.C., according to FBI special agent Marc Hess. After receiving a tip about the letter’s whereabouts, agents recovered the document and returned it to Smithsonian managers May 26.

“It is an important part of our heritage,” Hess said. “It may not be worth a lot monetarily, but it’s worth a lot to scholars.”

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