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VSA Warns of Violin Theft Ring in the Southeast United States

Laurie Niles

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Published: June 11, 2015 at 5:50 AM [UTC]

EDITOR'S NOTE: The remaining two suspects were arrested Thursday morning by the Roswell, Ga. police department, according to Atlanta Violins owner Bill McClain. See his comment below for more details.

Lori Kirr, president of the Violin Society of America, issued an alert on the VSA's Facebook page late Tuesday about an "organized violin theft ring" operating in the southeast United States.

theft ring

According to violin maker John Montgomery, who runs a violin shop in Raleigh, North Carolina, "criminals have been moving violins between the Atlanta area, Nashville and Raleigh, and may be branching further afield now." One suspected thief going by the name "Steve Sincere" was arrested Monday in Pablo Alfaro’s Atlanta-area shop. Two other suspects remain at large: “Gary Crouse,” age 61, 5’ 10” tall, 185 lbs., Caucasian; and “Edward Fields”, 40’s, 5’11” tall, heavy-set, African-American; both claiming to be from Atlanta.

According to the report, “Fields” steals the violins and hides them under his suit coat, and then travels to other shops to sell the violins. So far, the ring is suspected in the thefts of instruments from Atlanta Violins and from Ron Sachs’ Atlanta-area violin shop, having begun their operation in April or earlier.

Montgomery said he first saw “Gary Crouse” in his Raleigh shop on April 24th, followed by “Edward Fields” on May 21st and again Monday afternoon, after “Fields” had been in Nashville that morning. He also said these men are not "violin-people."

Montgomery said that shop owners should be on the lookout for at least three violins stolen by the ring, including:

  • Landolfi label violin
  • “Lawrence Lamay” violin, circa 1977
  • “Angelo Marin” violin, circa 2006

The VSA advised shop owners to be on the lookout for the at-large individuals and to call police if they come into their shop.

From Trevor Jennings
Posted on June 11, 2015 at 12:07 PM
This happened in my area in the UK 10-15 years ago. Now, if a customer wants to visit either of the two major violin dealers/repairers in my town the he has to ring a doorbell and a member of staff will unlock the door and admit him if he is identified as a genuine customer - as the vast majority are, of course.
Posted on June 11, 2015 at 8:02 PM
The thieves were arrested this morning by the Roswell, Ga police department. One of the culprits (Crouse) actually came back to Atlanta violins yesterday morning to see if we would "donate" some cases to their "children's orchestra". We recognized the name- John Montgomery had sent us a copy of his drivers license- and called the police, who soon showed up. He was not arrested, but was followed when he left our shop, later arrested with Fields. In addition ot our violins, a Landolfi violin from Ronald Sachs was recoveered, along with many horns, woodwinds, etc. We have the highest regard for the Roswell, Ga police department and Detective David Farabaugh, who worked tirelessly for thirty hours straight on this case. Thanks also to John Montgomery for realizing the instruments were not what they were presented as, and searching the internet until he found them listed on our website. Thanks also to all who contacted us about this theft. It is only in times like this that we realize that we are a community. Bill McClain, owner, Atlanta Violins
From Paul Deck
Posted on June 12, 2015 at 2:34 AM
The idea that thieves tucked away violins under their suit jackets ... seriously?
From Laurie Niles
Posted on June 12, 2015 at 9:14 PM
More on this story from ABC News: "Suspects in the case had sold violins to a store in Raleigh, North Carolina, in recent months until the store owner became suspicious, Roswell police Officer Lisa Holland said Friday. The owner began to research the violins, which are hand-crafted and have unique characteristics, and determined they were stolen from a Roswell store, which he contacted.

Gary Donald Crouse, 60, and Leslie Edwards Fields, 52, were apprehended Wednesday and the hotel room was searched after one of the suspects showed up at the Roswell store seeking violin cases, Holland said in a release. Both men are charged with theft by receiving stolen property.

Investigators found two oboes, two trumpets and a clarinet inside the hotel room and are looking for the owners of the instruments, Holland said. Investigators said the stolen instruments are worth more than $100,000."

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