Art 'victims' accused of fraud

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The Independent US

They called it the perfect crime: a valuable art collection, including several works by Van Gogh and Jackson Pollock, spirited away from a cliff-top mansion in northern California by robbers who disappeared without a trace.

Yesterday, police claimed that the perfect crime was an imperfect scam. Officers investigating the $80m (£50m) heist, one of the biggest art thefts in history, told reporters that they believed it had actually been staged as part of an elaborate insurance fraud.

The local sheriff's office informed a stunned press conference that their only suspects in the case, which also saw paintings by Rembrant, Renoir and Matisse reported missing, were the two men who had originally alleged they were victims. "This whole thing stinks," said officer Mike Richards, claiming that the men had so far failed to provide any documentation. "We're trying to determine what kind of criminal enterprise they may be involved in."

Two weeks ago, Ralph Kennaugh, a former Harvard professor, and Angelo Amadio, a lawyer, announced that their rented home had been raided. Robbers had left a ransom note, they said.

But police said they did not find any evidence of a break-in. There were no fingerprints, no hint of intruders on the security video and no neighbours of the exclusive Pebble Beach property had witnessed anything untoward.

Contacted by the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday, Mr Amadio denied the alleged fraud and accused detectives of having "botched the investigation" into the case.

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