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Rembrandt drawing at hotel stolen

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

LOS ANGELES -- An art thief pulled off a heist of a small Rembrandt drawing worth $250,000 while the exhibition curator was momentarily distracted at a California luxury hotel known for its top-notch security, investigators said Monday.

The theft from a private exhibit in the lobby at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Marina del Rey occurred during a 15-minute window Saturday night.

"When the curator turned back to the Rembrandt, it was gone," sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said. It's unclear whether the person who distracted the curator was connected to the theft.

"This appears to be well-thought, well-planned, well-executed," Whitmore said.

The Rembrandt was part of an exhibition in which art pieces were displayed to potential buyers. The hotel often hosts such events.

"The Ritz-Carlton security is the best, maybe the best in the nation," Whitmore said.

The Dutch master's quill pen and ink drawing, which measures about 11 inches by 6 inches, is called "The Judgment."

Detectives have a hotel surveillance videotape, but it's not being made public for now.

"Releasing the video may or may not be helpful," Whitmore said. "We're confident that our leads, and the surveillance video will help us solve this."

A sketch artist is putting together a suspect composite drawing based on witness accounts. It will be released at the end of the week.

The drawing was part of an exhibit at the hotel sponsored by the Linearis Institute based in the San Francisco Bay Area community of Hercules. Telephone voice mail messages left Monday weren't returned.

Art experts tell the Los Angeles Times that works by Rembrandt and Picasso are popular targets for art thieves.

Anthony Amore, chief investigator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and co-author of the book "Stealing Rembrandts," said there have been 81 documented thefts of the artist's work in the past 100 years.

"I'd be shocked if the person who stole this piece had any idea how to fence it," Amore said.

Marina del Rey is a sprawling community and small-boat harbor on Santa Monica Bay.

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