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Stolen Artifacts Worth Millions Being Returned To Italy

MIKE ROBINSON   06/ 8/09 09:39 PM ET   AP


CHICAGO — Thousands of Italian artifacts _ including a handwritten document by Benito Mussolini and antiquities dating to 900 B.C. _ were found in the home of a late collectibles dealer, the FBI announced Monday.

Nearly half the items were identified as stolen and will be returned to Italy, the FBI said.

The collection, worth between $5 million and $10 million, had been shipped to John Sisto during two decades by his father, who lived in Italy and likely bought the treasures from thieves who looted them from private collections, the FBI said.

Sisto's relatives discovered the some 3,500 artifacts, manuscripts and antiquities squirreled away in boxes in his Berwyn home after his death in 2007.

The collection includes hundreds of Etruscan artifacts produced between 900 B.C. and 500 B.C., parchments and manuscripts, some with wax papal seals dating to the 12th century, and more than 1,000 books and documents written by kings and popes.

It also includes a more modern document handwritten by the fascist dictator Mussolini: his handwritten preface to the book "Dux" by Margherita Sarfatti, published in 1926.

FBI agents believe Sisto's father, Giuseppe "Joseph" Sisto, sent the items to his son with an eye to selling them for a profit.

But the younger Sisto "appeared to be more interested in the historical value of these items than the monetary value and that is why he kept most of them there," FBI spokesman Ross Rice said.

Most of the items appear to have come from the Bari region in southern Italy. They most likely started to arrive in the early 1960s and continued to be shipped to Berwyn until the elder Sisto died in 1982.

Authorities don't know whether some items were sold to collectors.

"Whatever additional items were sent here we wouldn't know," Rice said.

The FBI is not prosecuting anyone in the Chicago area in connection with the thefts. Italian authorities will have to determine whether to file charges against anyone under that country's cultural property laws, the FBI said.

"Not only do thefts such as these result in a significant monetary loss, but they also deprive the world of part of its cultural history," said Robert D. Grant, special agent in charge of the FBI's Chicago office.


Filed by Ben Goldberger  |