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Police investigating the alleged multimillion-dollar theft of paintings from the California home of a former Harvard Medical School professor and a Boston art dealer said they found a typed ransom letter that demanded money for the artwork and threatened to kill the victims if they alerted authorities

Ransom asked in theft of art worth millions

By David Abel, Globe Staff | October 2, 2009

Police investigating the alleged multimillion-dollar theft of paintings from the California home of a former Harvard Medical School professor and a Boston art dealer said they found a typed ransom letter that demanded money for the artwork and threatened to kill the victims if they alerted authorities.

The letter was found near where one of the stolen paintings had been kept inside the rented Pebble Beach home, where dealer Angelo Amadio and Dr. Ralph Kennaugh had stored much of their collection, police said.

“It was handed to us by the victims, who said they found it in their residence Tuesday afternoon,’’ said Commander Mike Richards, a spokesman for the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office. “It demands a monetary amount – not clear how much – for the paintings . . . [and] conveys death threats to the victims if they contact law enforcement. It’s being analyzed by our evidence people.’’

He declined to answer other questions about the theft, which the victims said included two 400-year-old Rembrandts, a Van Gogh, and a Jackson Pollock, worth more than $27 million total.

Vicki St. John, a lawyer representing the men, said in a telephone interview that much of what had been stolen had not been insured. She said that about 30 paintings were stolen and that the value of the loss could approach $100 million.

She criticized the sheriff’s office for taking four days to respond. “Apparently they thought it was a run-of-the-mill burglary,’’ she said.

She said the men alerted police Friday night, shortly after they discovered the theft. She said they did not discover the ransom letter until Tuesday because they did not want to tamper with evidence.

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