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Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Stolen Art Watch, Judy Garland Ruby Slippers Recovered, Click Three Times, Wish Hard For Gardner Art Recovery


No place like home: 'Wizard of Oz' slippers found after Arizona donor offers reward

A scene from the 1939 classic "The WIzard of Oz." Pictured from left: Ray Bolger (Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Tin Man), Judy Garland (Dorothy) and Bert Lahr (Cowardly Lion).
MGM
It took 13 years, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation followed the yellow brick road of clues and has recovered a stolen pair of ruby slippers seen in the movie "The Wizard of Oz."
FBI Special Agent Jill Sanborn on Tuesday called the recovery a "significant milestone" at a news conference in Minneapolis. The bureau didn't say whether arrests have been made.
Sanborn said four pairs of ruby slippers are known to exist: A pair at the Smithsonian, a pair owned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a pair belonging to a private party and the recently recovered "traveling pair."
"They are more than just a pair of slippers," said Grand Rapids Police Department Chief Scott Johnson. "They are an enduring symbol of the power of belief."

Stolen in 2005

A pair of ruby slippers, known as the "traveling pair," were recovered by the FBI after disappearing from the Judy Garland Museum in Minnesota 13 years ago.
Courtesy of: Federal Bureau of Investigation
The shoes were stolen in 2005 from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. The museum is Garland's childhood home.
"The thieves not only took the slippers, they took a piece of history that will be forever connected to Grand Rapids and one of our city's most famous children," Johnson said.
In 2017, a person provided information on the shoes and how they could be returned. Investigators believed the person was trying to extort the shoes' owners, according to a statement.
The FBI aided the investigation with its Art Crime Team, laboratory, and field offices in Chicago, Atlanta and Miami. The bureau said the shoes were found during an undercover operation in Minneapolis.
The shoes were taken to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., to be compared with another pair of ruby slippers.

Arizona reward in play?

Judy Garland as Dorothy, with Toto, in "The Wizard of Oz in 1939.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
An anonymous Arizona donor in 2015 had offered a $1 million reward for information leading to the return of the slippers.
Judy Garland Museum Executive Director John Kelsch told The Arizona Republic at the time that the museum would not say whether the donor was from the Phoenix area.
The donor is a fan of Garland and "The Wizard of Oz."
MORE: Ask Clay: Hidden messages in 'Wizard of Oz'
In his The Republic interview, Kelsch said to claim the reward, the tipster must provide the slippers' exact location or have someone personally turn them in. Also, the slippers must be in good condition for authorities to authenticate them and the name of the thief must be provided.
Museum officials couldn't say Tuesday whether the recovery of the shoes fully met those criteria. Officials also didn't provide an update on the reward.

Who stole the shoes?

The FBI is still looking for information on the theft of the slippers. Multiple suspects were identified.
"There are certainly people out there who have additional knowledge regarding both the theft and the individuals responsible for concealing the slippers all these years," FBI Special Agent Christopher Dudley said.
The public is encouraged to provide information on the theft or extortion plot by calling 1-800-225-5324 or submit information online at tips.fbi.gov.

Art crimes

U.S. Attorney Chris Myers said the FBI's stolen art list contains about 8,000 art and culture items. Since the creation of the Art Crime team, more than 14,850 items have been recovered.
"There is a certain romance in these types of schemes," Myers said. "Sometimes sophistication, but at the end of the day it is a theft."
In 2017, a painting by Willem de Kooning was recovered at an estate sale in New Mexico. The painting, stolen from the University of Arizona Museum of Art in 1985, is estimated to be worth more than $100 million.

Art Crime

Stolen Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz Recovered
A conservator for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History analyzes one of the ruby slippers that were recovered by the FBI after being stolen in 2005.
Dawn Wallace, a conservator for the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, analyzes one of the recovered slippers at the Smithsonian's Conservation Lab in Washington, D.C. (Smithsonian photo)
A pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and stolen from the actress’ namesake museum in Minnesota more than a decade ago has been recovered, the FBI announced today.
The iconic sequined shoes, known as the “traveling pair”—one of at least four pairs used in the film that are still in existence—were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota in 2005 and recovered earlier this summer during a sting operation. But the case is far from over.
“From the outset,” said Special Agent Christopher Dudley, who led the investigation from the FBI’s Minneapolis Division, “our top priority was the safe recovery of the slippers.” Although multiple suspects have been identified, Dudley said, “we are still working to ensure that we have identified all parties involved in both the initial theft and the more recent extortion attempt for their return. This is very much an active investigation.”
At a press conference in Minneapolis to announce the recovery, the FBI, along with the Grand Rapids Police Department, asked for the public’s assistance. “There are certainly people out there who have additional knowledge regarding both the theft and the individuals responsible for concealing the slippers all these years.” Dudley said. “We are asking that you come forward.”

Conservators at the National Museum of American History assisted the Minneapolis Division of the FBI in the case of ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz that were stolen in Minnesota in 2005. The museum analyzed and compared the recovered slippers with a pair that has been part of the Smithsonian collection since 1979.

“We are still working to ensure that we have identified all parties involved in both the initial theft and the more recent extortion attempt for their return.”

Christopher Dudley, special agent, FBI Minneapolis

Judy Garland, who played Dorothy Gale in the classic fairy tale film enjoyed by generations of moviegoers around the world, wore several pairs of the red slippers during the movie’s production, dancing her way down the yellow brick road and, at the story’s end, clicking her heels three times and repeating, “There’s no place like home.” The slippers are widely considered to be one of the most recognizable pieces of memorabilia in American film history, and are estimated to be worth several million dollars.
The star’s childhood house in Grand Rapids was turned into a museum in 1975 and remains a repository of The Wizard of Oz artifacts and memorabilia. The slippers disappeared from there in the early morning hours of August 28, 2005, and the crime has weighed heavily on the community, whose identity is proudly associated with Garland’s birthplace.
Despite a vigorous investigation by local authorities at the time, the slippers were not located, and no arrests were made. When the theft occurred, said Grand Rapids Police Department Chief Scott Johnson during today’s announcement, “the thieves not only took the slippers, they took a piece of history that will be forever connected to Grand Rapids and one of our city’s most famous children.”
In the summer of 2017, 12 years after the theft, an individual approached the company that insured the slippers, saying he had information about the shoes and how they could be returned. “When it became apparent that those involved were in reality attempting to extort the owners of the slippers,” Dudley explained, Grand Rapids police requested the FBI’s assistance. After nearly a yearlong investigation—with invaluable assistance from the FBI’s Art Crime Team, the FBI Laboratory, and field offices in Chicago, Atlanta, and Miami—the slippers were recovered during an undercover operation in Minneapolis.

These iconic sequined shoes, known as the “traveling pair”—one of at least four pairs used in The Wizard of Oz that are still in existence—were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota in 2005 and recovered earlier this summer during a sting operation.

Agents from the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office transported the recovered slippers to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.—where another pair of the ruby slippers has been on display since 1979—for analysis and comparison.
Dawn Wallace, a Smithsonian conservator who has been working for the past two years to conserve the museum’s ruby slippers, which are nearly 80 years old, said a careful analysis led to the conclusion that the recovered shoes were similar in construction, materials, and condition to the museum’s pair. And it turns out the recovered shoes and the pair in the museum’s collection are mismatched twins.
Smithsonian curator Ryan Lintelman, who specializes in American film history, explained that there were probably six or more pairs of the slippers made for The Wizard of Oz. “It was common that you would create multiple copies of costumes and props,” he said. Somehow over the years, the pairs of shoes were mixed up.
Lintelman added that the Smithsonian’s ruby slippers “are among the most requested objects by visitors to the museum. There is an emotional response that visitors have,” he said. “People’s eyes light up.”
“Recovering a cultural item of this importance is significant,” the FBI’s Dudley noted. “So many people of all ages around the world have seen The Wizard of Oz and in that way have some connection to the slippers. That’s one of the things that makes this case resonate with so many.”
Anyone with additional information regarding the theft of the ruby slippers or the extortion plot is encouraged to contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) or submit information online at tips.fbi.gov.

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