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3 arrested after US theft of Stradivarius violin

MILWAUKEE--A prosecutor says three people have been arrested in connection with the theft of a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster.

Assistant District Attorney Kent Lovern said Wednesday he couldn't reveal any information beyond the arrests.

Police Chief Ed Flynn told a news conference that authorities have not recovered the violin, and the search for it continues. The violin has been appraised at US$5 million.

Police say the nearly 300-year-old violin was on loan to concertmaster Frank Almond. Authorities say a robber used a stun gun on Almond and took the instrument from him in a parking lot.

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra says someone recently offered US$100,000 for the safe return of the violin, which was crafted in 1715.

The brazen Jan. 27 crime set off a frantic search and raised questions about why someone would steal an item that would be nearly impossible to sell.

The violin is known in musical circles as the “Lipinski” Stradivarius. Its previous owners include virtuoso Giuseppe Tartini, who was known for his “Devil's Trill” Sonata, and Polish violinist Karol Lipinski.

It was passed down through generations, eventually landing with the heirs of Estonian violinist Evi Liivak, according to Stefan Hersh a Chicago-based violin curator who helped restore it to playing condition after it was removed from storage in a bank vault in 2008. The current owner's name has not been revealed publicly.

A message left for Almond through the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra wasn't immediately returned Wednesday. Police have asked that he not speak to the media while the investigation was going on.

Hersh said he couldn't sleep after he heard about the theft. He was worried the violin would be damaged, but the more he thought about it the more he suspected the thieves would take pains to protect it.

“You'd have to think someone who thought this through with such meticulous planning would take good care of it,” he said.

Estimates vary for the number of Stradivarius violins that still exist, said Lisbeth Butler, the secretary of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers. Most experts believe that 600 to 650 remain, she said.

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In this undated photo provided by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, concertmaster Frank Almond plays a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was on loan to him during a concert in Milwaukee. Police said Wednesday, Feb. 5 that three people have been arrested in connection with the theft of the multimillion-dollar instrument. (AP)

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