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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Manhattan Deputy U.S. Attorney Announces Return To Italy Of Roman Statue Stolen In 1983

Joon Kim, Deputy United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michael McGarrity, Special Agent in Charge of the Criminal Division of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today that a Roman marble peplophoros statue (the “Torlonia Peplophoros”), stolen from the Villa Torlonia in Rome in 1983, was returned to Italy today at a repatriation ceremony at the New York Historical Society in Manhattan.  The Torlonia Peplophoros was sold in Manhattan in 2001 after being unlawfully brought into the United States in the late 1990s, and was forfeited to the United States as a result of civil forfeiture action brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Deputy U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said: “On a November night in 1983, the Torlonia Peplophoros, a marble statute listed on Italy’s national archive, was stolen from its home in a Roman villa.  When it emerged in New York City more than 30 years later, having been unlawfully smuggled into the United States, our Office, working with the FBI, forfeited the statue as stolen property.  Today, we have the pleasure returning the Torlonia Peplophoros home where it belongs, with the Italian people.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael McGarrity said, “Today’s ceremony is just one example of the FBI’s commitment to restore significant arts and antiquities to their rightful owners, and we remind everyone of the significant role they serve in preserving the history of the world.”

According to court filings and other publically available information:

In 1797, Giovanni Torlonia, a famous Vatican banker in Rome, purchased what is now called the Villa Torlonia (the “Villa”) after inheriting the title of Marchese.  The Torlonia family owned the Villa until 1977, though it was used by Benito Mussolini as his personal residence from 1925 to 1943, and then occupied by the Allied High Command from 1944 to 1947.  After 1947, the Villa was abandoned and deteriorated until the Municipality of Rome purchased it from the Torlonia family in 1977. 

Since 1978, the Villa has been opened to the public and restored by the Municipality of Rome.  It contained various works of art and other significant cultural property, including the Torlonia Peplophoros, a statue depicting a woman wearing a body-length garment, known as a peplos (or peplum), that was common in ancient Greece.

During the night of November 11, 1983, and the following morning, an unknown number of thieves stole 15 statues and other items from the Villa.  The Torlonia Peplophoros was among the stolen statues.

In the late 1990s, the Torlonia Peplophoros was imported into the United States by the owner of a New York City art gallery (the “Gallery”).  In 2001, the Gallery sold the Torlonia Peplophoros to an individual residing in New York City (the “Buyer”) for approximately $75,000.

The Buyer became aware that the Torlonia Peplophoros was stolen when the Buyer attempted to offer it for sale through a New York City auction house, and voluntarily turned it over to the FBI in late 2015.

On February 25, 2016, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed a civil forfeiture Complaint alleging that the Torlonia Peplophoros had been imported into the United States illegally.  On June 29, 2016, United States District Court Judge Katherine P. Failla entered a default judgment forfeiting the Torlonia Peplophoros to the United States.

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Mr. Kim thanked the FBI’s Art Crime Team for its outstanding work on this matter.

The case is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Wilson is in charge of the case.


Press Release Number: 
Updated December 7, 2016