Congratulations to Chicago dealer Harlan Berk for assisting authorities in the return of some $5 million worth of stolen medals and documents, which are being returned to a Chicago museum. Berk is shown here at a news conference with Chicago FBI Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Michael Kosanovich.
Stolen documents, military medals and other artifacts valued at about $5 million - including letters signed
by Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson - were returned Wednesday to Chicago's Polish Museum after being found in the basement of a home decades after they went missing.
The more than 120 items, which were returned following an FBI investigation, include letters and documents dating to the 18th and 19th centuries, seals, military medals and Nazi propaganda from World War II. The pieces also included documentation about Napoleon, George Washington, John Adams and American Revolution hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko.
Museum president Maria Ciesla said she couldn't catch her breath when she received the phone call that the items, missing since the 1970s and 1980s, were located.
"This is something that we had dreamed and hoped for for so many years," Ciesla said. "It is so important for us to have this safely back not only for the rich Polish history but also for the wonderful American history. It is so important to the world stage."
Officials said Chicago coin and antiques dealer Harlan Berk notified the museum last October that his office had purchased historic items it had traced to the institution. The museum contacted the FBI, which started an investigation.
Berk told the FBI that the sellers said they found the artifacts in the basement of a Chicago house where they were tenants. FBI Art Crime Team investigators found that the residence was owned by the mother of a former Polish museum curator. The FBI recovered additional artifacts and documents from the home.
No charges were filed because the FBI couldn't determine who took the items from the museum or exactly when they were taken. The statute of limitations in the case also had run out.
To read the complete article, see:
$5 million in stolen documents and medals returned to Chicago's Polish museum
Wayne Homren, Editor
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