Montpelier, Vt. Thirty stolen bronze sculptures are valued at $1 million - not by the scrap yards where most of them ended up.
Police say three people arrested Monday in the thefts of the hefty artwork were after the raw materials rather than their artistic value. Bronze contains copper, which has skyrocketed in value from about 75 cents per pound in 2004 to more than $3 today.
"Throughout the state we've been seeing copper wire stolen. It's along the same lines," Vermont State Police Detective Lt. Jason Letourneau said Wednesday.
Police said the sculptures were stolen from inside and outside of Joel Fisher's studio in North Troy last month, while Fisher was traveling out of the country.
Fisher, 60, whose art work has been exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and the Gallery Shimada in Yamaguchi, Japan, had estimated the sculptures' value at $1 million.
The big break in the case came when the owner of a Hinesburg scrap metal yard called police after seeing a newspaper report about the thefts with a photo of one of the sculptures.
Authorities recovered 23 sculptures weighing a total of about 3,000 pounds from the scrap yard, which paid more than $4,000 for them. Police said more sculptures sold for scrap were being returned from North Adams, Mass. Some of the sculptures weighed up to 800 pounds, Letourneau said.
"Some of them, one person could carry, and some of them need several men to carry," he said.
State Police arrested Joshua Staples, 18, Anni Wells, 26, and Roger Chaffee, 29, of the Troy and Newport areas on Dec. 24. There's no indication that any of them knew Fisher, police said.