Art and cultural property crime—which includes theft, fraud, looting, and trafficking across state and international lines—is a looming criminal enterprise with estimated losses in the billions of dollars annually.
To recover these precious pieces—and to bring these criminals to justice—the FBI has a dedicated Art Crime Team of 16 special agents, supported by DOJ trial attorneys for prosecutions. The Bureau also runs the National Stolen Art File, a computerized index of reported stolen art and cultural properties for the use of law enforcement agencies across the world.
Please note: U.S. persons and organizations requiring access to the National Stolen Art File should contact their closest FBI Field Office; international organizations should contact their closest FBI Legal Attaché Office.
The National Stolen Art File (NSAF) is a database of stolen art and cultural property. Stolen objects are submitted for entry to the NSAF by law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. When an object is recovered, it is removed from the database. However, be aware that not all recoveries are reported to the NSAF. If you have information on a work of art in the NSAF, please use the FBI.gov tip line to report it.
The FBI established a rapid deployment Art Crime Team in 2004. The team is composed of 16 special agents, each responsible for addressing art and cultural property crime cases in an assigned geographic region. The Art Crime Team is coordinated through the FBI’s Art Theft Program, located at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Art Crime Team agents receive specialized training in art and cultural property investigations and assist in art related investigations worldwide in cooperation with foreign law enforcement officials and FBI legal attaché offices.The U.S. Department of Justice provides special trial attorneys to the Art Crime Team for prosecutive support.
Since its inception, the Art Crime Team has recovered more than 14,850 items valued at over $165 million.
The FBI has primary investigative jurisdiction for all federal criminal laws except cases in which responsibility is, by statute or otherwise, specifically assigned to another agency. The FBI has responsibility for the following federal statutes:
Title 18, United States Code, Section 659 - Theft From Interstate Shipment
Makes it a federal offense to steal or obtain by fraud anything from a conveyance, depot or terminal, any shipment being transported in interstate or foreign commerce. The statute also prohibits the "fencing" of such stolen property.
Title 18, United States Code, Section 1951 - Interference with Commerce by Threats of Violence (Hobbs Act)
Makes it a federal offense to obstruct interstate commerce by robbery or extortion or to use or threaten to use violence against any person or property in interstate commerce.
Title 18, United States Code, Section 2314 and 2315 - Interstate Transportation of Stolen Property
Prohibits the transportation in interstate or foreign commerce of any goods with a value of $5,000 or more knowing the goods to be stolen. These statutes also prohibit the "fencing" of such goods.
Title 18, United States Code, Section 668 - Theft of Major Artwork
Makes it a federal offense to obtain by theft or fraud any object of cultural heritage from a museum. The statute also prohibits the "fencing" or possession of such objects, knowing them to be stolen.
Title 18, United States Code, Section 1170 - Illegal Trafficking in Native American Human Remains and Cultural Items
Prohibits the sale of the human remains or cultural artifacts of Native Americans without the right of possession of those items in accordance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
Title 18, United States Code, Section 641 and 2114 - Theft of Government Property
Makes it illegal to steal or embezzle any government property or to commit robbery of government property. Prosecutive guidelines are established by the United States Attorney in each federal judicial district.
What to do when an art theft has been discovered:
- Protect the scene of the crime and do not let staff or visitors into the area to disturb evidence.
- Notify your local police department immediately.
- Determine the last time the objects were seen and what happened in the area, or to the objects, since that time.
- Gather documents, descriptions and images of the missing objects and provide to the police.
- Follow-up on police actions and investigations to ensure that everything possible is being done.
- Iraqi Looted and Stolen Artifacts
- Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Theft
- Theft of Caravaggio’s Nativity with San Lorenzo and San Francesco
- Theft of the Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius
- The Van Gogh Museum Robbery
- Theft of Cezanne’s View of Auvers-sur-Oise
- Theft of the Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Murals, Panels 3-A and 3-B
- Theft from the Museu Chacara do Céu
- Theft of Van Mieris’ A Cavalier
- Theft of Renoir Oil Painting