“I know where the violin is at,” said confidential informant “W.D.” to off-duty Police Officer Gerardo Orozco. The officer, who had previously dealt with the informant, was told that the informant’s hairdresser had fingered the person responsible the $6 million “Lipinski” Stradivarius violin that had been stolen. The informant recounted to the officer that on the previous afternoon, Saturday, February 2, he got his hair cut by Universal K. Allah at a Milwaukee barbershop. At that time, news stories about the missing Stradivarius were being broadcast in the shop, and W.D. said that the stories had prompted several customers in the shop to state how stupid they believed the crime to be due to the difficultly the thief would encounter in trying to sell the Stradivarius. After giving W.D. a haircut, Allah asked W.D. for a ride home.
During that ride, Allah revealed to W.D. that Salah stole the violin. W.D. told authorities that Salah likely referred to Salah I. Salahadyn, someone W.D. had known since graduating high school. W.D. subsequently identified Salahadyn in a photo lineup. Allah also told W.D. that he had purchased the taser gun because he had a CCW permit and Salah did not and that he had kept the taser until Salah had asked for it on Janurary 25.
The case of the stolen Stradivarius had been under investigation since Monday, January 27, when the three-hundred-year-old violin was stolen from Frank Almond, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster. Almond, who left after the conclusion of his performance at Wisconsin Lutheran College, was approached by a man in the parking lot at approximately 10:20 p.m. The man fired a taser gun at Almond as he was opening his car door. Almond told authorities that the probes of the taser gun struck him in the chest and wrist, causing him to become momentarily incapacitated and fall to the ground. During this time, the man stole the Stradivarius as well as other items, including 19th-century bows worth $50,000. Todd R. Levy, a clarinetist who was also leaving at the same time as Almond, heard him shout, “They got the violin!” Levy noted that a “1990s model burgundy-colored minivan” was exiting the parking lot at that time.
The day after the theft, Detective Eric Donaldson located case of the violin on a street in Milwaukee. Authorities were already on a path to Allah due to the small, confetti-sized particles that contained the gun’s identifying serial numbers (AFID) that had been obtained at the crime scene. These particles are routinely emitted when Taser gun is discharged. (When W.D. had queried Allah as to whether or not tasers were trackable, Allah had stated that they were, but that if the gun got tracked to him he planned to tell the authorities it had been stolen.) The information from W.D. let police to focus on Salahadyn, who was already known to police. He had attempted to sell “Woman with Fruit,” a $25,000 sculpture stolen from an art gallery in 1995, back to its owner four years later, which had led to his being convicted on receiving stolen property.
On February 3, search warrants for Salah I. Salahadyn and Universal Allah were executed. In Allah’s residence, the following items were recovered: a loaded .357 revolver, an Apple Jacks cereal box containing a Trident digital scale, and 45 grams of marijuana. In Salahadyn’s home, authorities discovered a binder containing articles related to art thefts as well as color copies of articles on Stradivarius violins. Authorities also found a note on a business card that said “Taser.com $500-$1000.” On feb 5th, Salahadyn himself led detectives to a residence located on the south side of Milwaukee where the Stradivarius was located. A search of the attic recovered black suitcase containing the violin. In addition to the violin, Salahadyn’s identification card was also located inside the suitcase. Police used gloves to carefully place the violin back into its case.
Charges punishable by up to 15 years in prison and $50,000 in fines were filed on Friday in a Milwaukee court against Salahadyn and alleged accomplice Universal K. Allah.
Stefan Hersh, who had loaned Almond the violin on an indefinite basis, confirmed the authenticity of the violin recovered by police. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster is expected to be reunited with the Stradivarius on Friday. If, upon inspection, Almond determines that the instrument is in playing condition, he intends to use it in a concert scheduled for Monday evening.
By Donna Westlund