LOS ANGELES – A man was charged Tuesday with transporting two rare, stolen violins worth more than $300,000 from Los Angeles to Amsterdam, then Paris, in an attempt to sell the instruments.
Anthony Eugene Notarstefano, 42, of Long Beach was arrested in Paris last week, after police recovered the violins, stolen from a Los Angeles Philharmonic musician in December, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. He remained in French custody.
"We're working with our legal attache in Paris and with French police to have him returned to the U.S.," Eimiller said.
Notarstefano came under suspicion after approaching the owner of a Paris violin shop on March 5 with an offer to sell the instruments for just $65,000, according to federal court documents.
After telling Notarstefano to come back later, the merchant searched for more information about the violins on the Internet and saw they were listed as stolen on the Los Angeles Police Department's Web site. The shop owner contacted authorities, who arrested Notarstefano when he returned to the shop later with the violins, the documents said.
The violins were among several items stolen Dec. 23 from the home of Los Angeles Philharmonic violinist Mark Kashper. One was crafted in the 18th century by the great violinmaker Carlo Tononi and was valued at about $225,000. The other was made in the 19th century by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume and was worth about $65,000.
French police said Notarstefano denied breaking into Kashper's house and said he bought the instruments from someone he did not know. U.S. authorities alleged he knew the instruments were stolen.
An acquaintance told an agent with the FBI's Art Crime Team that Notarstefano told him he was cautious about selling the violins in the United States because they were stolen and he didn't want them to be traced back to him, court documents said.
It was not immediately clear if Notarstefano had retained a lawyer.