Nearly 20 years later, federal charges are pending in Scranton museum heist

Jun. 14—Nearly 20 years later, the mystery of who broke into the Everhart Museum may be solved.

Federal charges are pending against as many as nine people accused of being part of a multi-state burglary ring that targeted museums, including the 2005 art heist at the Everhart, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania called a news conference for 11 a.m. Thursday at the William J. Nealon Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse to announce a "significant law enforcement matter."

The announcement is expected to center on federal charges against a burglary ring, said two sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

U.S. Attorney Gerard M. Karam declined to comment Wednesday.

The names of those facing charges have not been disclosed. Charging documents are filed under seal.

The thieves targeted museums housing valuable artifacts, authorities believe. The Everhart Museum was one of them.

At 2:32 a.m. on Nov. 18, 2005, intruders stole two works of art: the 1949 painting, "Winter in Springs," by abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock and the 1984 silkscreen print, "La Grande Passion," by pop art icon Andy Warhol.

Warhol's 40-inch by 40-inch silkscreen had a value pegged at $15,000 and had a documented provenance.

"Winter in Springs" was a bit more complicated.

The Everhart received the painting on loan in 2002 from the late Arthur Byron Phillips, a successful Scranton-born artist who long maintained he obtained the 40- by 32-inch oil-on-canvas directly from Pollock.

However, the painting does not appear in a comprehensive inventory of the artist's work first compiled in the 1970s and then updated in the 1990s.

Phillips' account, while plausible, could not be verified, experts previously told The Times-Tribune. Authentication would require physical examination. If genuine, the painting could be worth tens of millions of dollars.

It was unclear if any of the works had been recovered.

"Winter in Springs" remains listed in an online Justice Department database of stolen art sought by the FBI.

"La Grande Passion" has been removed.

Contact the writer:, 570-348-9100, x5187; @jkohutTT on Twitter.