FBI Recovers Stolen Ruby Slippers Used in The Wizard of Oz
FBI Seeking Information Regarding Theft of Stolen Memorabilia
Jill Sanborn, Special Agent in Charge of the Minneapolis Division of the FBI, and Christopher Myers, United States Attorney for the District of North Dakota, announced today that a pair of ruby slippers featured in the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota in 2005, was seized in a sting operation conducted in Minneapolis earlier this summer.
While the FBI has identified suspects and has executed multiple search warrants in Minnesota and Florida in connection with the investigation, investigators are seeking the public’s help to identify all parties associated with the initial theft and the more recent scheme to defraud and extort the Markel Corporation, the owner of the slippers.
The ruby slippers are one of several pairs used in the production of the movie classic. Only four pairs of the shoes used in the film are known to remain and are widely viewed as among the most recognizable memorabilia in American film history. Current estimates value the slippers in the millions of dollars should they be sold at auction.
The recovered slippers, known as the “traveling pair,” were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in the overnight hours of August 27-28, 2005. Despite an investigation by local authorities, which included countless interviews, numerous theories, and even searches of abandoned iron ore pits, the slippers were never located and no arrests were made. The investigation remained a priority for the Grand Rapids Police Department, who requested FBI assistance in 2017 when the extortion plot against the Markel Corporation surfaced. Agents from the Minneapolis Division worked closely with the FBI’s Art Crime Team throughout the investigation, which is ongoing.
After the recovery in July, the FBI transported the slippers to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., where conservators were able to conduct an in-depth examination and analysis, including evidence of wear and details unique to their use in the 1939 film. Examination of the recovered shoes showed that their construction, materials, and wear are consistent with the pair in the museum’s collection, which were donated to the museum by an anonymous donor in 1979.
“At the heart of nearly every art crime, we see greed woven into the fabric of the scheme—greed to take it, and greed to profit from its return,” said Sanborn. “Dorothy’s slippers are a treasured piece of Americana, and we are hoping members of the public can help us better fill in the details that will finish the script of this mystery so we can hold accountable all those who were behind the scheme.”
“When the slippers were snatched in the early morning burglary, the thieves not only took the slippers, they took a piece of history that will be forever connected to Grand Rapids and one of our city’s most famous children,” said Grand Rapids Police Chief Scott Johnson. “We were confident this day would eventually come, and we are grateful to the FBI and all those who worked to bring this piece of cinematic treasure out of the shadows and into the light. After all,” he said, quoting a famous line from The Wizard of Oz, ‘There’s no place like home.’”
U.S. Attorney Chris Myers added, “Thanks to the great work of the FBI and their local law enforcement partners, they have successfully preserved an iconic symbol of one of America’s greatest and best-loved movies. We will follow the evidence along the investigative road to ensure justice is done in this case.”
This matter has been assigned to the United States Attorney’s Office for North Dakota pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 515(a).
Anyone with information surrounding the theft or the extortion plot is encouraged to contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) or submit information via the FBI’s website at tips.fbi.gov. Tips can be anonymous.
Sanborn and Myers acknowledged the support of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division’s Art Crime Team; the Grand Rapids Police Department; FBI offices in Chicago, Atlanta, and Miami; the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History; and the Markel Corporation.