Given today’s volatile stock market and sluggish global economy, more wealthy Americans are opting for alternative investment strategies, such as collecting high-profile art and jewelry. In turn, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said theft of such items has become a booming criminal enterprise.
Clearly, there is high “black market” demand for the nation’s most valuable national treasures, as the FBI estimates total losses amount to $6 billion annually. The high school class ring of Elvis Presley, pictured here, is just one of many items the FBI is looking for.
In 1953, when Elvis Presley was in his senior year at Humes High School in Memphis, Tenn., his parents purchased the 10 karat gold ring for him. Stamped with his initial, “E,” it was worn by the singer during the early ‘50s and kept in his jewelry box as a memento of his childhood until given to bodyguard Dave Hebler.
Eventually, collector Chris Davidson acquired the ring, along with a letter of authenticity from Hebler, for his Elvis-A-Rama Museum in Las Vegas. In March 2004, thieves rammed a stolen tow truck into the back door of the museum and made off with an array of memorabilia, including the classic ring, the FBI said.
Thousands of items of cultural and historical significance have been reported stolen to the FBI, so it’s formed a special task force to recover the missing treasures. The Art Crime Team consists of 14 special agents, who are supported by three special trial attorneys for prosecutions. It maintains the National Stolen Art File, an online database that chronicles thousands of reported stolen items and is accessible to the public and law enforcement agencies alike.
This slideshow shows FBI’s most wanted stolen art works. Click ahead for the list.
“Ripping Off the Rich”premieres Monday, July 30 at 8 p.m. ET.
By Drew Sandholm
Posted 30 July 2012