Mark Meng presented himself as an instrument collector, stealing violins and bows from violin shops around the US in a theft scheme between August 2020 and April 2023


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A 57-year-old man has been accused in a federal criminal complaint of stealing valuable violins worth more than a combined $300,000 from shops across the US, as well as robbing an Irvine bank in April, authorities said.

Mark Meng, of Irvine, Orange County, CA, was charged Monday 7 May with counts including bank robbery and wire fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

From August 2020, Meng contacted violin shops and posed as a collector of valuable violins to gain the trust of the store owners. He would express interest in receiving violins on loan for a trial period to determine if he wished to purchase the instruments and in some cases, bought violin bows from the stores before asking for the trial period.

Meng kept the violins he received on loan to sell to a violin dealer in Los Angeles who was unaware the instruments had been stolen.

The violins that were stolen included:

  • a Lorenzo Ventapane violin, dated 1823, and valued at $175,000;
  • a Giulio Degani violin, dated 1903, and valued at $55,000;
  • a Caressa & Français violin, dated 1913, and valued at $40,000;
  • a Gand & Bernardel violin, dated 1870, and valued at $60,000;
  • and a Français Lotte violin bow, stamped ’Lupot,’ and valued at $7,500.

The scheme continued until April 2023. Meng came under investigation of FBI agents later that year, who called him for a meeting regarding the stolen violins.

Additionally, Meng is accused of robbing a U.S. Bank Branch on Barranca Parkway in Irvine on 2 April 2024. Wearing a hat, sunglasses, a bandana and latex gloves, he demanded $18,000 by passing a note to the teller. The teller was unable to pass Meng the full amount and instead gave him $446, after which, Meng fled the scene in a white van.

Irvine Police Department arrested Meng on 12 April at his home and identified further evidence connecting him to the bank robbery. He was booked at Orange County jail.

He faces 20 years in federal prison if found guilty of the crimes. He is expected in court on Thursday 9 May.

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