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Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures

Robert K. Wittman
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The London Times dubbed him “the most famous art detective in the world.” In Priceless, Robert K. Wittman, the founder of the FBI’s Art Crime Team, pulls back the curtain on his remarkable career, offering a real-life international thriller. He built a twenty-year career that was nothing short of extraordinary. He traveled the world, undercover, to catch art thieves and rescue paintings by Rembrandt, Pissarro, Monet, and Picasso. He recovered an original copy of the Bill of Rights and cracked the scam that rocked the PBS series Antiques Roadshow.

In this page-turning memoir, Wittman fascinates with the stories behind his recoveries of priceless art and antiquities: the golden armor of an ancient Peruvian warrior king; the Rodin sculpture that inspired the Impressionist movement; the headdress Geronimo wore at his final Pow-Wow; and the rare Civil War battle flag carried into battle by one of the nation’s first African-American regiments. By the FBI’s accounting, Wittman saved hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art and antiquities.

The art thieves and scammers Wittman caught run the gamut from rich to poor, smart to foolish, organized criminals to desperate loners. The smuggler who brought him a looted 6th-century treasure turned out to be a high-ranking diplomat. The appraiser who stole countless heirlooms from war heroes’ descendants was a slick, aristocratic con man. The museum janitor who made off with locks of George Washington's hair just wanted to make a few extra bucks. With suspense, intrigue, and candor, Robert Wittman takes the reader inside the secret world of stolen art.

Reviewed in Security Management, 5/11.

Format: Hardcover

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