Arrests in art and sports memorabilia theft spree
Nine Northeast Pennsylvania residents allegedly conspired over almost two decades to break into multiple museums and other institutions.
Officials say they stole priceless works of art, including Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock paintings, sports memorabilia and other objects.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced on Thursday, June 15, that Nicholas Dombek, 53, of Thornhurst Twp.; Damien Boland, 47, of Moscow; Alfred Atsus, 47, of Covington Twp.; and Joseph Atsus, 48, of Roaring Brook Twp., were indicted by a federal grand jury on various charges. They include conspiracy to commit theft of major artwork and concealment or disposal of objects of cultural heritage.
Thomas Trotta, 48, of Moscow; Frank Tassiello, 50, of Scranton; Daryl Rinker, 50, of Thornhurst Twp.; Dawn Trotta, 51, of Covington Twp.; and Ralph Parry, 45, of Covington Twp., were also charged for the same conspiracy.
Eight of the nine suspects are in custody. Dombek is listed as a fugitive.
Over 19 years, between 1999 and 2018, investigators say they stole guns – including three antique firearms worth a combined $1 million from Space Farms: Zoo & Museum in New Jersey; nine world series rings and other memorabilia worth over $1 million from the Yogi Berra Museum; 12 trophies from the Scranton Country Club; a Christy Mathewson jersey and his contracts from Keystone College; and a Tiffany lamp from the Lackawanna Historical Society. Their alleged spree went as far as the Roger Maris Museum in Fargo, North Dakota.
The thieves often melted down the memorabilia including World Series rings, plaques and trophies to sell in the New York City area, according to officials.
“Le Grande Passion” by Warhol and “Springs Winter” by Pollock went missing from the Everhart Museum in Scranton on Nov. 18, 2005. The legitimacy of the Pollock painting has been questioned over the years.
Officials said they would transport the stolen goods back to the region, often to the residence of Dombek.
The whereabouts of many of the paintings and stolen objects are currently unknown, according to investigators.
The case involved the FBI as well as officers from across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Washington, D.C., Rhode Island and North Dakota.
The FBI is asking anyone who has information on Dombek’s whereabouts to 1-800-CALL-FBI and/or TIPS.FBI.GOV.
Items stolen, according to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of PA, include:
• Nine World Series rings, seven other championship rings and two MVP plaques awarded to Yogi Berra.
• Six championship belts, including four awarded to Carmen Basilio and two awarded to Tony Zale stolen from the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Canastota, New York
• The Hickok Belt and MVP Trophy awarded to Roger Maris, stolen from the Roger Maris Museum, Fargo, North Dakota
• The U.S. Amateur Trophy and a Hickok Belt awarded to Ben Hogan stolen from the USGA Golf Museum & Library, Liberty Corner, New Jersey
• Fourteen trophies and other awards worth over $300,000 stolen from the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, Goshen, New York
• Five trophies worth over $400,000, including the 1903 Belmont Stakes Trophy, from the National Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, Saratoga Springs, New York.
• Eleven trophies, including four awarded to Art Wall, Jr. stolen from the Scranton Country Club.
• “Upper Hudson” by Jasper Cropsey, worth around $500,000; and two antique firearms worth over $300,000, stolen from Ringwood Manor, Ringwood, New Jersey.
• Gold nuggets worth $400,000 stolen from the Sterling Hill Mining Museum, Ogdensburg, New Jersey.
• Various gems, minerals, and other items stolen from the Franklin Mineral Museum, Franklin, New Jersey.
• An antique shotgun worth over $30,000 stolen from Space Farms: Zoo & Museum, Wantage, New Jersey.
• Various jewelry, and other items from multiple antique and jewelry stores in New York, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.