Central PA men indicted after allegedly stealing Yogi Berra WS rings, Jackson Pollock painting, Christy Mathewson jersey, more

16 June 2023- The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Nicholas Dombek, age 53, of Thornhurst, Pennsylvania, Damien Boland, age 47, of Moscow, Pennsylvania, Alfred Atsus, age 47, of Covington Township, Pennsylvania, and Joseph Atsus, age 48, of Roaring Brook, Pennsylvania were indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to commit theft of major artwork, concealment or disposal of objects of cultural heritage, and interstate transportation of stolen property.  All four men were also charged with substantive counts of theft of major artwork and the concealment or disposal of objects of cultural heritage. Dombek was further charged with a substantive count of interstate transportation of stolen property.

Five other individuals were charged by felony informations for the same conspiracy. They are Thomas Trotta, age 48, of Moscow, Pennsylvania, Frank Tassiello, age 50, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Daryl Rinker, age 50, of Thornhurst, Pennsylvania, Dawn Trotta, age 51, of Covington Township, Pennsylvania, and Ralph Parry, age 45, of Covington Township, Pennsylvania.

According to United States Attorney Gerard M. Karam, the indictment and informations charge the nine with conspiring over a period of 20 years to break into multiple museums and other institutions to steal priceless works of art, sports memorabilia, and other objects. Those objects include the following:

  • A Christy Mathewson jersey and two contracts signed by Mathewson stolen in 1999 from Keystone College in Factoryville, Pennsylvania;
  • “Le Grande Passion” by Andy Warhol and “Springs Winter” by Jackson Pollock stolen in 2005 from the Everhart Museum, Scranton, Pennsylvania;
  • Nine (9) World Series rings, seven (7) other championship rings, and two (2) MVP plaques awarded to Yogi Berra, worth over $1,000,000 stolen in 2014 from the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center, Little Falls, New Jersey;
  • Six (6) championship belts, including four awarded to Carmen Basilio and two awarded to Tony Zale stolen in 2015 from the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Canastota, New York;
  • The Hickok Belt and MVP Trophy awarded to Roger Maris, stolen in 2016 from the Roger Maris Museum, Fargo, North Dakota;
  • The U.S. Amateur Trophy and a Hickok Belt awarded to Ben Hogan, stolen in 2012 from the USGA Golf Museum & Library, Liberty Corner, New Jersey;
  • Fourteen (14) trophies and other awards worth over $300,000 stolen in 2012 from the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, Goshen, New York;
  • Five (5) trophies worth over $400,000, including the 1903 Belmont Stakes Trophy, stolen in 2013 from the National Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, Saratoga Springs, New York;
  • Eleven (11) trophies, including 4 awarded to Art Wall, Jr. stolen in 2011 from the Scranton Country Club, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania;
  • Three antique firearms worth a combined $1,000,000 stolen in 2006 from Space Farms: Zoo & Museum, Wantage, New Jersey;
  • An 1903/1904 Tiffany Lamp stolen in 2010 from the Lackawanna Historical Society, Scranton, Pennsylvania,
  • “Upper Hudson” by Jasper Cropsey, worth approximately $500,000, and two antique firearms worth over $300,000, stolen in 2011 from Ringwood Manor, Ringwood, New Jersey;
  • $400,000 worth of gold nuggets stolen in 2011 from the Sterling Hill Mining Museum, Ogdensburg, New Jersey;
  • Various gems, minerals, and other items stolen in 2017 from the Franklin Mineral Museum, Franklin, New Jersey;
  • An antique shotgun worth over $30,000 stolen in 2018 from Space Farms: Zoo & Museum, Wantage, New Jersey;
  • Various jewelry, and other items from multiple antique and jewelry stores in New York, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania.

The indictment and informations further allege that after stealing the above-described items, the conspirators transported the stolen goods back to Northeastern Pennsylvania, often to the residence of Dombek, and melted the memorabilia down into easily transportable metal discs or bars.  The conspirators sold the raw metal to other individuals in the New York City area for hundreds or thousands of dollars, but significantly less than the stolen items would be worth at fair market value.

The indictment and informations further allege that Dombek burnt the painting “Upper Hudson” by Jasper Cropsey, valued at approximately $500,000, to avoid the recovery of the painting by investigators for use as evidence against the members of the conspiracy.  The whereabouts of many of the other paintings and stolen objects are currently unknown. 

The matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Pennsylvania State Police, the New Jersey State Police, the New York State Police, the New Jersey State Park Police, the Newport Police Department (Rhode Island), the Fargo Police Department (North Dakota), the Chester Police Department (New York), the Wyoming Regional Police Department (Pennsylvania), the Scranton Police Department, the Franklin Police Department (New Jersey), the Village of Goshen Police Department (New York), the Metropolitan Police Department (Washington, D.C.), the West Milford Township Police Department (New Jersey), the Montclair Police Department (New Jersey), the Saratoga Springs Police Department (New York), the Canastota Police Department (New York), the South Abington Police Department (Pennsylvania), the Bernards Township Police Department (New Jersey), the Salisbury Township Police Department (Pennsylvania), the Montclair State University Police Department (New Jersey), the Lackawanna County District Attorney’s Office (Pennsylvania), the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office (New Jersey), the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office (New Jersey), the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (New York), and the Madison County District Attorney’s Office (New York).  Assistant United States Attorney James M. Buchanan is prosecuting the case.

The maximum penalty under federal law for the conspiracy count is five years imprisonment, and for each of the other offenses is ten years’ imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine.  A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.