Apr 9, 2024 - News

Alleged Pennsylvania ring accused of stealing art, sports memorabilia from museums

Illustration of a burglar in a ski mask holding a giant sack

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An alleged Pennsylvania theft ring is accused of stealing dozens of major artworks and hallowed sports memorabilia from small museums over two decades, per the New York Times.

Why it matters: Most items taken from 12 low-profile museums in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey remain unrecovered and some have likely been destroyed, per reports.

Driving the news: The group, based around Scranton, allegedly committed the burglaries between 1999 and 2019, the NYT reported yesterday.

  • The ring allegedly targeted the institutions ahead of time, and most of the burglaries happened after closing. The group allegedly would smash display cases or occasionally dress in disguise, per Rolling Stone.

What was taken: The group is accused of stealing artifacts worth at least $4 million, per the NYT. According to authorities, the items include:

  • Nine of Yogi Berra's 10 World Series rings
  • The 1903 Belmont Stakes Trophy
  • At least five antique firearms
  • An Andy Warhol silk screen print
  • Awards won by Roger Maris and a jersey worn by Christy Mathewson.

Zoom in: The group is accused of melting down and hocking for scrap metal much of the high-profile sports memorabilia, like Berra's rings and trophies, per 60 Minutes.

  • Other items, like an 1871 painting by American artist Jasper Cropsey (worth $500,000), the group allegedly burned to elude authorities, per Rolling Stone.

Details: Tommy Trotta, of Moscow, Pennsylvania, has been described as the ring's "mastermind," per 60 Minutes. He pleaded guilty and provided information to authorities about the heists and alleged accomplices for a reduced sentence.

  • Yes, but: Nicholas Dombek of Thornhurst, Pennsylvania, has also been accused as the group's leader, per the NYT.

How they were busted: The heist ring began unraveling in 2019.

  • That's when police pulled over Trotta for a traffic stop for suspicion of driving under the influence, per The Times-Tribune.
  • Inside his car, police found bolt cutters and ski masks and they were able to match his DNA with that found at some of the crime scenes.

What's next: Five of the accused have pleaded guilty. The four others, including Dombek, are scheduled to go on trial in Pennsylvania this year, per 60 Minutes.

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