Art and jewel theft are both considered federal offenses for several reasons: These thefts typically cross state lines and, sometimes, national boundaries; therefore, a federal agency with nationwide and international reach is necessary to investigate them. Additionally, these crimes are frequently committed by theft groups (organized criminal enterprises), which also require a federal agency that has offices throughout the nation and overseas; furthermore, these groups are usually entangled in other organized crime activities that are already being scrutinized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The FBI Creates an Art Crime Team
Art and cultural property crimes include fraud, looting, theft, as well as trafficking across international and state lines. These types of crimes are estimated to cost billions of dollars every year. For this reason, in 2004, the FBI created a team of 16 special agents who are dedicated to crimes related to art. The team’s goal is to recover stolen art and bring the criminals to justice.
The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) prosecution trial attorneys offer support for this dedicated Art Crime Team. The DOJ runs a computerized index that houses all reports of stolen art and cultural properties. This National Stolen Art File is used by law enforcement agencies all over the world.
The FBI’s Art Theft Program
Each special agent is responsible for addressing cultural property and art crime cases in a specific geographic region. The FBI’s Art Theft Program is responsible for coordinating the Art Crime Team at the FBI Headquarters located in Washington, D.C. These agents receive training dedicated to practices related to cultural property and art investigations; thus, providing the agents with the expertise necessary to assist foreign law enforcement officials and FBI legal attaché offices with investigations pertaining to cultural property and art, worldwide.
The Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) Department’s Role
The stealing and trafficking of art and cultural heritage is not a new phenomenon, the only difference is that now cultural pirates can acquire, transport and then sell valuable art and cultural property quickly and easily. Cultural pirates operate globally, without any regard for nationalities, borders, laws or the importance of the items they smuggle.
The nation’s federal importation laws provide HSI with the authority to take control of investigating crimes that involve the illegal importation and distribution of art and cultural property. HSI can legally seize art and cultural property that is unlawfully brought into the US, especially when such objects have already been reported as lost or stolen.
Importance of Returning Stolen Artwork or Cultural Heritage to Other Nations
Returning stolen art or cultural property to the nation from which it was removed promotes goodwill with the governments and citizens of the country’s affected; moreover, the world’s knowledge of civilizations past and cultural heritage is also preserved.
The FBI’s Jewelry and Gem Program
In 1992, the FBI initiated its Jewelry and Gem (JAG) Program to address the nationwide increase in the number of thefts involving jewelry retailers and traveling jewelry salespersons. The jewelry industry loses in excess of $100 million every year; moreover, because these crimes are frequently committed using weapons, physical injury or death during these crimes are not unheard of.
Previously, the Major Theft Unit maintained its own Jewelry and Gem database; however, currently there is an industry owned and operated database that is available to law enforcement at no charge. The Jewelers’ Security Alliance (JSA) maintains this database.
The FBI Assists Police Departments and the Jewelry Industry in Combating Jewel Thefts
The FBI works with law enforcement in its attempt to locate stolen jewels by conducting searches through the Jewelers’ Security Alliance Jewelry and Gem database.
The FBI has field offices throughout the country that coordinate with law enforcement to investigate cases that cross state lines; furthermore, the FBI coordinates cases that cross national boundaries through its legal attaché offices that are located overseas.
When necessary, the FBI sponsors investigative coordination meetings and provides resources for jewelry professionals as well as law enforcement communities.
Recovering Stolen Jewels Requires Cooperation
The close partnerships the FBI maintains with the security experts within the jewelry industry are crucial to successfully recovering stolen jewels and arresting the individuals who committed the crime. One such expert is the Jewelers’ Security Alliance, which embodies the security concerns of about 20,000 retail jewelry stores, the Gemological Institute of America and the Jewelers’ Mutual Insurance Company. In addition, close partnerships with the law enforcement community are essential to combat the violent victimization of traveling salespersons and jewelry retailers.
As former prosecutors, our attorneys know the ins and outs of criminal law; therefore, if you are charged with a crime and are in need of an experienced, compassionate and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney, contact the Pittsburgh law office of DeLuca, Ricciuti & Konieczka today.