Final Suspect in 20-Year Art Heist Case Turns Himself In

Nicholas Dombek is one of nine individuals accused of stealing millions of dollars worth of artwork, sports memorabilia and cultural artifacts

Outside of museum building
The Everhart Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where prosecutors allege suspects stole Andy Warhol’s La Grande Passion and Jackson Pollock’s Springs Winter in 2005 Jeffrey from Dunmore, PA via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 2.0

The final suspect in a 20-year art-theft scheme has turned himself in to authorities in Pennsylvania, report WNEP’s Courtney Harrison and Stacy Lange.

Nicholas Dombek surrendered on Monday at the Lackawanna County Prison in Scranton. A judge denied him bail at his first court appearance on Tuesday, so he remains in custody.

For over six months, Dombek had been considered a fugitive. He was the only suspect who did not immediately surrender himself after prosecutors filed charges against nine people in June.

Authorities have accused Dombek and the other suspects of orchestrating an elaborate, multi-year heist. They allege that, starting as early as 1999, the nine individuals worked together to break into museums and other institutions in multiple states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, North Dakota and Rhode Island. Once inside, they stole millions of dollars worth of artwork, sports memorabilia and cultural artifacts, including pieces by Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock.

Court documents suggest that the suspects would repeatedly visit selected venues to scope out their security protocols and look at the items they planned to steal, as reported by Rolling Stone’s Andrea Marks. Then, after these reconnaissance missions, they’d return when the facilities were closed, smashing down doors and display cases to nab various items.

Sometimes, they even wore disguises—like a fireman’s uniform or a painter’s mask—to enter museums, per the magazine.

The list of objects authorities say the suspects stole is long. It includes nine of Yogi Berra’s World Series rings, an early 20th-century Tiffany lamp, gold nuggets, antique firearms, jewelry and dozens of sports trophies.

Authorities still don’t know where many of these items are. They claim, however, that when possible, the suspects melted down their stolen goods and sold the resulting metal discs or bars in New York City. Prosecutors say that much of this process occurred at Dombek’s home in northeastern Pennsylvania; they also allege that he burnt a Jasper Cropsey painting worth roughly $500,000 so that investigators could not use it as evidence.

What Dombek has been doing—and where exactly he has been hiding—for the last six months is unclear, though his attorney, Ernie Preate, tells WNEP that he has been in the area. Preate says Dombek called him on New Year’s Day and announced he wanted to turn himself in.

The other suspects in the case have been making a number of court appearances. Four of them—Daryl Rinker, Ralph Parry, Frank Tassiello and Thomas Trotta—pleaded guilty in late June and early July. Meanwhile, three others—Damien Boland, Alfred Atsus and Joseph Atsus—have entered not-guilty pleas. State police also seized nearly 200 guns from Rinker’s home.

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