Arrests made in theft of $5 million Stradivarius violin

Three people were arrested in connection with the theft of a multi-million dollar Stradivarius violin stolen last week from the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Kent Lovern, a Milwaukee County assistant district attorney, said he couldn't reveal any information beyond the arrests. He said he didn't expect a charging decision would be made before Thursday.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the violin had been recovered. Police would only say the investigation was ongoing.

The nearly 300-year-old violin, which has been appraised at $5 million, was on loan to concertmaster Frank Almond. He had just finished performing Jan. 27 at Wisconsin Lutheran College when a robber attacked him a stun gun, seized the instrument and fled to a waiting vehicle. The violin case was later found abandoned.

The violin's owner released a statement through Almond's blog expressing relief that Almond wasn't seriously hurt.

Stefan Hersh, a violin curator who helped restore the Stradivarius to playing condition after it was removed from storage in a bank vault in 2008, said he used to watch how carefully Almond would care for the violin. While some musicians see their instruments as objects or tools, Almond understood the historical significance of the violin made in 1715, Hersh said.

"He had a special case made for it, he kept it highly protected in his car, he never let it out of his sight," said Hersh, who said he and Almond were close friends. "As a performer nothing shakes him but after the theft he was highly shaken. I've never known him like that."

Hersh said Almond had scars on his wrist and chest from the stun gun but otherwise wasn't seriously hurt.

A message left for Almond through the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra wasn't immediately returned. Police had previously asked that he not speak to the media while the investigation was going on.

The violin is known in musical circles as the "Lipinski" Stradivarius. Its previous owners include virtuoso Giuseppe Tartini, who was known for his "Devil's Trill" Sonata, and Polish violinist Karol Lipinski.

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra said someone had offered $100,000 for the safe return of the violin.