The Minnesota museum purchased two of the paintings from the Rio gallery in 1999. Later that year, the FBI recovered two more of the stolen Rockwells from a Brazilian man after he tried to sell them to a Philadelphia gallery. He claimed to be unaware of any theft and was not charged with a crime. The final three paintings were recovered by Wittman and another FBI agent in a Brazilian farmhouse in 2001.
Smaller cases are more difficult to investigate, experts said. Although the painting is worth millions, stealing "The Scream" may not be as immediately profitable as stealing a lesser-known, more obscure painting that isn't as easily traced.
"The more uniquely identifiable the object, the more famous the work and the more publicized the theft, the harder it is to market," IFAR's Flescher said. "But a nondescript landscape painting by a less-well-known artist might be easier to sell."
It's rare that an art theft results from an intricately planned scheme in a public place. Theft of lesser-known works is more the norm as they are often less protected and easier to fence.
But that doesn't preclude the occasional high-profile heist.
Officials at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum are still waiting for a resolution after enduring one of the largest art heists in history more than 14 years ago. Thirteen paintings, including works by Rembrandt and Manet, with an estimated worth as high as $300 million, were stolen from the museum by thieves posing as Boston police officers in 1990. The works have not yet been recovered despite a $5 million reward offered for information.
To this point, there has been no publicized ransom demand for "The Scream." More than two months have passed, but it's still early in the game, relatively speaking.