Police investigating the alleged heist of art by Van Gogh and Rembrandt in Pebble Beach, Calif., say they have turned their attention to a couple of suspects: The men, including a former Harvard Medical School professor, who reported the theft.
Monterey County Sheriff's Cmdr. Mike Richards told the Associated Press that the owners of the art, Benjamin Amadio and Dr. Ralph Kennaugh, may be involved in a "criminal enterprise," and that authorities were investigating "other scenarios."
"This whole thing stinks," Richards said. "There has been no response to requests for photographs, receipts, identification of sellers, nothing."
The alleged theft was like something out of "Ocean's 11." A house in a wealthy, gated and guarded community is hit by thieves in the middle of the day. The burglars make off with at least 16 pieces of art by some of the world's great masters -- Renoir, Rembrandt, Pollock and Van Gogh to name a few. No one sees a thing.
The owners estimated their loss at more than $27 million, though they've been quoted in press accounts as saying that single pieces of the collection might be worth up to $80 million. They claim to have just $72,000 worth of insurance to cover the loss.
The art works were owned by Kennaugh, 62, a former faculty member at Harvard Medical School who had recently retired from his oncology practice and moved to California with his roommate and business partner 31-year-old Amadio. The men rented a house in the exclusive enclave of Pebble Beach where neighbors include Clint Eastwood.
The two men claimed they arrived home Sept. 26 just before 7 p.m. to discover the alleged theft "My business partner went into the house first; we had been out all day looking at real estate. I dropped him off by the garage and I parked the car and when I got into the house he said we have been robbed," Amadio told ABC News last week.
Amadio said at least 16 pieces of art work are missing including a Matisse and a Jackson Pollock that Amadio believes is worth $20 million. Several other pieces of lesser value are also gone. A 2002 appraisal indicated the entire collection was worth $27 million.
Amadio denied that they are somehow involved. "We're just dumbfounded by what the sheriff is saying," Amadio told The Associated Press. "Why would anyone in their right mind make this up?"
Commander Richards of the Monterey County Sherriff's Office said Amadio and Kennaugh were not cooperating with investigators and were unable to produce proof that the artwork even exists, let alone that it was stolen.
Police were puzzled when the alleged victims turned up a ransom note several days later -- one that wasn't found in the original search. Richards said one of the victims handed the police an extortion note that turned up on the property. It is a typewritten note demanding money in exchange for the return of the paintings. It also conveyed death threats to the victims should they contact law enforcement.
Amadio had told ABC News that he's convinced the theft was an inside job. "There are very few people who knew we had these pieces. Very few people knew where they had been stored," said Amadio. And he added that because of the death threat he is "not so much concerned with the art right now…we don't think we're ever going to see the artwork again. Now we have to concentrate on not getting killed over artwork," said Amadio. He declined to provide the titles of any of the stolen works.