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userbob

Help! I found my stolen instrument at a dealer in another state!

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On a whim, I found the exact instrument (modern maker, violin number, year, all on the original label, and description of the same instrument on the website) doing a search today! I have no idea how long its been in the inventory of the shop. I can't believe my luck.

I'm a former professional. My violin was stolen from the backseat of a car literally 20 years ago. My father and mother bought it for me when I was an undergrad studying performance. They died a year before it was stolen, so having it back would just be a dream come true.

How do I go about requesting it back? I think I may have gotten a settlement for it then, but have literally no idea what insurance company it was. It was my parents' insurance company and I stopped doing business with them within the first couple of years after they died.

I am sure I can get the record from the maker to show it was purchased by my family, and/or get the original police record for the theft.

 

What are your suggestions? I really appreciate your advice. This is obviously not the fault of the shop that has it in their possession. They live several states away from where it was stolen.

 

Bob

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My understanding is that if an insurance company compensated you for it, now they own it. I'm no expert though.

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I think Clearsky is probably right. But maybe the insurance company will sell it back to you? Anyway sounds like you need to get the insurance information. The fact that the original maker is still around should help a lot. And hopefully the dealer will cooperate.

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Let the insurance company know right away, and let their lawyers handle it. They are the ones who own it and who ultimately sustained the loss. If you want to buy it back, they will likely charge you the current fair market value.

Good luck, and please let us know what happens!

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Thanks for the input everyone!  

Here's the rub . . . I have literally no idea who the insurance company is . . . it was so long ago and I was 22 at the time . . . I have no idea how to find out what insurance company it was. Is there some information clearinghouse that would have the record of the insurance company's claim to that instrument?

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The insurance company is not in the violin business any more than your mortgage-holder is in the real estate business. Surely they unloaded it to the violin shop years ago, where you can always give it your best shot. The maker, even though he may have a great deal of sympathy for your plight, has no fiduciary interest in this outcome, and  no power to decide the outcome.

All else fails, write the shop a check for your violin, and close the book on this chapter of your life.

N.B. I am not a lawyer, even though I may have stayed at a Holiday Inn last night. The advice is worth every penny you paid for it.

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21 minutes ago, AtlVcl said:

no power to decide the outcome.

No, but he/she can provide proof that the instrument is the same, that needs to be established.

Also, if I understand correctly, the insurance company never had possession of the instrument, they just have a claim on it if its ever recovered.

The loser would be the dealer, who potentially has stolen property, but maybe he has insurance for that.

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30 minutes ago, AtlVcl said:

The insurance company is not in the violin business any more than your mortgage-holder is in the real estate business. Surely they unloaded it to the violin shop years ago, where you can always give it your best shot. The maker, even though he may have a great deal of sympathy for your plight, has no fiduciary interest in this outcome, and  no power to decide the outcome.

All else fails, write the shop a check for your violin, and close the book on this chapter of your life.

 

Good point. I was assuming that the insurance company never recovered the stolen violin. You're suggesting that they may have recovered it and sold it without ever notifying the OP.

If the OP were to buy it from the shop, and it was still stolen property, he could be prosecuted for buying stolen property or insurance fraud because the insurance company sustained the loss and the OP was compensated by them for it. He would have a difficult time explaining that he did not know it was stolen!

He still needs to talk to the insurance company first.

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I would not want a huge, bureaucratic company involved if anything personal was at stake. If anyone can screw this up, they will.

I would first document your former ownership and the shop's offering in exquisite detail, while you can. Then I'd be inclined to contact the shop (hoping for an amicable resolution) and the police (failing that). But the smart thing to do would probably be to talk to a lawyer first.

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There is precedence with this, with the Gibson 1717 strad.  

Violin stolen, insurance paid out.  Unwitting wife of the thief comes forward with the strad decades later. Insurance company owns it outright and has someone auction it to Norbert Brianin.  

If you can prove the instrument was yours, then it is now the insurance company’s, and they won’t give it to you.  They’ll charge you it’s current market value, and the shop will be the loser.  They could have acquired it several owners down the line and thought they had made a legitimate buy.   

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1 hour ago, dpappas said:

There is precedence with this, with the Gibson 1717 strad.  

Violin stolen, insurance paid out.  Unwitting wife of the thief comes forward with the strad decades later. Insurance company owns it outright and has someone auction it to Norbert Brianin.  

If you can prove the instrument was yours, then it is now the insurance company’s, and they won’t give it to you.  They’ll charge you it’s current market value, and the shop will be the loser.  They could have acquired it several owners down the line and thought they had made a legitimate buy.   

You have neglected to mention the lawsuits between the wife, the daughter and the insurance company regarding claims of ownership.

I have seen  everything from the insurance company having no further interest to the owner purchasing the instrument back at full market. First, you must provide proof of ownership and most likely a police report showing the theft.

Also consider that labels are portable and it may not be your violin. If you can not remember the insurance company you should probably expect a lawyer to question your memory regarding the instrument. 

In any event, a conversation with a lawyer should be your first act.

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12 hours ago, userbob said:

..I think I may have gotten a settlement for it then [20 years ago]...

If you didn't, it's still legally yours.  Is there any way you can resolve this uncertainty?

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I would do my best to find out which insurance company was involved.  The best thing you can do is be completely up front and honest with all concerned.  You may want to talk with a lawyer as well.

 

DLB

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If an insurance company was involved, they would have required a police report. I would start there. The report may include the insurance information. As duanne88 mentioned, you are probably going to need it anyway.

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Hey everyone . . . in my excitement at the improbability of this discovery, I failed to correctly remember the number of the fiddle. Mine was one number greater than the one currently for sale. Same year, same color, same pattern, same everything . . . just got off the phone with the maker. Disappointed, but it doesn't wreck my week . . . that violin has been gone long . . . maybe someday.

Thanks so much to the community for supporting me through this. I can't thank you all enough!

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20 years ago?  Hate to sound apathetic, but if you (your parents) were compensated through insurance, and the violin was stolen 20 years ago, it is unlikely that any legal remedy exists due to the statute of limitations.  Also, if a shop owner, and its predecessors, did not know (or should have known) that the violin was stolen when purchased, they are bona fide purchasers thus shielding them from liability.  This opinion is all based upon a vacuum of facts and not meant to be any sort of legal advice whatsoever.  

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15 hours ago, userbob said:

What are your suggestions? I really appreciate your advice. This is obviously not the fault of the shop that has it in their possession. They live several states away from where it was stolen.

Bob

How much is it on sale for?

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12 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

If you can be arrested for buying stolen property that was stolen from you, I'm moving back to the old country.

Thank you, Bill...!

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1 hour ago, violinnewb said:

20 years ago?  Hate to sound apathetic, but if you (your parents) were compensated through insurance, and the violin was stolen 20 years ago, it is unlikely that any legal remedy exists due to the statute of limitations.  Also, if a shop owner, and its predecessors, did not know (or should have known) that the violin was stolen when purchased, they are bona fide purchasers thus shielding them from liability.  This opinion is all based upon a vacuum of facts and not meant to be any sort of legal advice whatsoever.  

Nope. You can not obtain legal title to something that is stolen. https://www.amazon.com/Violin-Fraud-Deception-Forgery-Lawsuits/dp/0198166559https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/09/arts/music/german-panel-rules-that-a-rare-violin-was-looted-by-nazis.html

The fact that you don't know that it is stolen doesn't help you.

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12 minutes ago, duane88 said:

Nope. You can not obtain legal title to something that is stolen. https://www.amazon.com/Violin-Fraud-Deception-Forgery-Lawsuits/dp/0198166559https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/09/arts/music/german-panel-rules-that-a-rare-violin-was-looted-by-nazis.html

The fact that you don't know that it is stolen doesn't help you.

Never said you can obtain legal title to stolen property.  

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2 hours ago, violinnewb said:

 Also, if a shop owner, and its predecessors, did not know (or should have known) that the violin was stolen when purchased, they are bona fide purchasers thus shielding them from liability.  

 

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2 hours ago, userbob said:

Hey everyone . . . in my excitement at the improbability of this discovery, I failed to correctly remember the number of the fiddle. Mine was one number greater than the one currently for sale. Same year, same color, same pattern, same everything . . . just got off the phone with the maker. Disappointed, but it doesn't wreck my week . . . that violin has been gone long . . . maybe someday.

Thanks so much to the community for supporting me through this. I can't thank you all enough!

 You are more apt to find it if you publicly post the maker and number!  Photos would be even better!

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3 hours ago, violinnewb said:

20 years ago?  Hate to sound apathetic, but if you (your parents) were compensated through insurance, and the violin was stolen 20 years ago, it is unlikely that any legal remedy exists due to the statute of limitations.  Also, if a shop owner, and its predecessors, did not know (or should have known) that the violin was stolen when purchased, they are bona fide purchasers thus shielding them from liability.  

I don't think so.

Also,  I don't know of a  statute of limitations converting stolen property into legally owned property.

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