Accused Stradivarius violin thief pleads guilty in Milwaukee

Reuters News
Posted: May 28, 2014 12:23 PM

By Brendan O'Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - One of two Milwaukee men accused of stealing a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin from a concert violinist after incapacitating him with a stun gun pleaded guilty to felony robbery on Wednesday, authorities said.

Universal Knowledge Allah, 36, faces up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty in Milwaukee County Circuit Court to stealing the violin, which was made in 1715, prosecuting attorney David Robles said.

Allah was accused of supplying the stun gun to Salah Jones, who allegedly incapacitated concert musician Frank Almond with the weapon as he left a concert in a Milwaukee suburb on Jan. 27 and took the violin, valued at about $5 million.

Allah's attorney Paul Ksicinski could not be reached immediately for comment on the plea. But the criminal complaint said Allah was not present when the theft occurred.

Jones told a witness stealing a Stradivarius violin "was his dream theft" because of its potential value and it could be "snatched from the hands of a musician as they walk down the street," a criminal complaint against the men said.

After their arrest, authorities found the violin in a black suitcase in an attic in a residence on the city's south side, according to the complaint.

The so-called Lipinski Stradivarius had been on loan indefinitely to Almond from a private owner. The violin was returned to Almond, who is again performing with it.

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The instrument is one of about 600 violins, violas and cellos still in existence that were built by the famed Italian artisan Antonio Stradivari.

Allah is scheduled to be sentenced on July 24. Jones, 42, pleaded not guilty to a felony robbery charge in February and also could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by David Bailey and Tom Brown)