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Dealer Charged With Stealing and Reselling Valuable Violins 

Mark Meng has been charged with an alleged scheming to steal high-end violins worth over $300,000


As reported by the U.S. Justice Department, Mark Meng of Irvine, California, has been charged in a federal criminal complaint for reportedly stealing valuable violins and then reselling them for his personal gain. 

Meng, 57, is also charged with bank robbery in Orange County and wire fraud in a complaint filed on May 7, 2024. 

According to the affidavit alongside the complaint, Meng contacted violin shops across the country between August 2020 and April 2023 and presented himself as a collector to gain the trust of the store owners, reported The Orange County Register.

He then expressed interest in receiving violins on loan for a trial phase to determine if he wished to purchase them, plus purchased violin bows from the stores before asking for the trial period.

The violins he received on loan were kept by him and later sold to a violin dealer in Los Angeles, who was unaware they had been stolen. The stolen instruments and violin bow included the:

  • 1823 Lorenzo Ventapane violin, valued at $175,000;
  • 1903 Guilio Degani violin, valued at $55,000;
  • 1913 Caressa & Francais violin, valued at $40,000;
  • 1870 Gand & Bernardel violin, valued at $60,000;
  • and a Francais Lott violin bow, stamped “Lupot,” valued at $7,500. 

Once aware that he was under investigation by the FBI for the stolen items, Meng allegedly set out to rob an Irvine bank branch. On April 2, 2024, wearing a hat, sunglasses, a bandana covering his face, and blue latex gloves, Meng is said to have given the bank teller a note stating “$18,000. - Withdraw. Please. Stay Cool! No harm. Thx.” 

The complaint says that the teller was unable to provide Meng the requested amount, and instead handed him $446 from the register. Meng then fled the bank in his white minivan after obtaining the money. 

Law enforcement personnel determined that a latent print from the robbery note was identified as belonging to Meng; the minivan was then tracked to Meng’s house, where Meng was arrested several days later.

“A complaint is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” wrote the Justice Department in the press release

Meng has been in state custody since April 11 and appeared in the U.S. District Court on May 9. If convicted, he would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison on both the bank robbery and the wire fraud counts.

This matter was investigated by the FBI’s Art Crime Team, with assistance from the Irvine Police Department and the Glendale Police Department. Prosecutors for this case include Assistant United States Attorneys Laura Alexander and Mark A. Williams — both of the Environmental Crimes and Consumer Protection Section.

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