When Vintage Violins Are Stolen, Someone Has to Face the Music

When Vintage Violins Are Stolen, Someone Has to Face the Music

Surveillance images of the suspect in the April 2 robbery of an Irvine bank. (Irvine Police Department)

City News Service

City News Service

5/14/2024

Updated: 5/14/2024

A 57-year-old Irvine man is accused of stealing expensive violins and later robbing a bank when the pressure was on.
Mark Meng was charged May 7 with bank robbery and wire fraud, prosecutors said.
Meng is accused of a scheme “to steal high-end violins and resell them for his personal gain” from August 2020 through April of last year, according to an FBI affidavit.
Meng is accused of stealing an 1823 Lorenzo Ventapane violin valued at $175,000; a 1903 Guilio Degani violin valued at $55,000; a 1913 Caressa & Francais violin worth $40,000; an 1870 Gand & Bernardel violin worth $60,000; and a Francais Lott violin bow worth $7,500, according to the FBI.
According to investigators, Meng allegedly contacted violin shops across the country to get an instrument on loan for a trial period, representing himself as a collector. After getting the violins on a trial basis, he kept them longer than promised, then kited checks to the lenders, re-sent more checks that bounced or claimed he tried to send the instruments back but they got lost in the mail, the FBI alleged.
He allegedly sold the stolen violins to a dealer in Los Angeles.
Prosecutors said that when Meng knew he was being investigated, he robbed a U.S. Bank branch at 4180 Barranca Parkway in Irvine the afternoon of April 2. Meng asked for $18,000 with a note that added: “Please. Stay Cool! No harm. Thx,” but was given $446, according to the FBI.
Video surveillance showed the suspect, disguised by a bandana and sunglasses and with latex gloves, dashing to a white minivan that matched the Toyota Sienna officers from Irvine had seen at his home on April 11 and was registered to his girlfriend, federal officials said.
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