Lawyer Drops Art Heist Victims As Clients
Memo Accuses Sheriff’s Department Of Cronyism
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — The lawyer for two men who allege they are victims of one of the country’s largest art heists dropped both clients, citing a conflict of interest.
Vicki St. John said she dropped Dr. Ralph Kennaugh and A. Benjamin Amadio as clients since she can be considered a witness because her name appeared on a memo written by Amadio that makes claims and charges against the Monterey County District Attorney and Monterey County Sheriff’s Department.
“I want it to be known that I had no part in this train wreck,” St. John said.
Amadio and his business partner Kennaugh said somebody broke into their Pebble Beach rental home on Sept. 25 and stole millions of dollars worth of art.
The heist allegedly included works of art by Jackson Pollock, Vincent Van Gogh and Rembrandt.
In an e-mail to Action News, Sage Ratcliff said she sent the 34-page memo to the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office without the knowledge of her attorney or Benjamin Amadio.
Ratcliff said in an e-mail to Action News that she had “no intention of causing anyone harm by sending out the memo.” Ratcliff’s attorney also dropped her as a client on Tuesday.
In the memo, Amadio said the lack of a thorough investigation by the department in the art heist stems from Amadio’s relationship with Ratcliff, who has been charged with check fraud. He also alleges Ratcliff’s stepfather has ties to the CIA and that her father is a deputy with the sheriff’s department.
“He’s not someone who even works here,” Cmdr. Mike Richards said. “Amadio seems to focus on a woman who we have no idea who she is. I understand she was arrested by our office but it has no bearing on our investigation.”
St. John, whose letterhead is used on the document, said she must step down as Kennaugh and Amadio’s lawyer because she is referenced as a potential witness in the memo.
In the letter, Amadio also alleges cronyism in the sheriff’s department as the reason his artwork is still missing, and that he was threatened at gunpoint by men with CIA ties, or ties to the sheriff’s department.
Amadio said he reported the incident to the Seaside Police Department, which did not take him seriously. Amadio also alleges District Attorney Gary Thelander was involved in the plot.
“I think this is the worst thing he could have done for himself,” St. John said about Amadio. “He really muddied the waters for himself, Ralph and any other person involved.”
Because of the lack of an insurance policy and proof of ownership of the paintings — proof Amadio said was stolen with the paintings — the sheriff’s department held a news conference in October where Richards said his department had not ruled out Amadio and Kennaugh, a former Harvard professor, as suspects.
“We still have two open cases. The initial investigation into the burglary in Pebble Beach, which basically got nowhere because of the lack of cooperation on the part of the victims, and also (we) have the related investigation into possible fraud involved in part of the victims. So, they are suspects in that investigation,” Richards said. “I have no idea what he’s trying to accomplish with that letter.”
St. John, who is also Amadio’s law student supervisor, said she has some advice for him.
“Absolutely the best thing he could do is just be quiet and let the dust settle,” St. John said. “I don’t think he’ll do it, (but) I wish him luck.”
Despite the best wishes, St. John has reported Amadio to the state bar for what she sees as violations to the rules regarding students.