Irvine Man Charged with Stealing Violins and Robbing Bank

Mark Meng, a 57-year-old Irvine man, faces charges of wire fraud and bank robbery for stealing high-end violins worth over $300,000 and robbing a US Bank branch in Irvine. He allegedly orchestrated a complex scheme to acquire and sell the stolen instruments, and was arrested on April 11, 2024.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Irvine Man Charged with Stealing Violins and Robbing Bank

Irvine Man Charged with Stealing Violins and Robbing Bank

Mark Meng, a 57-year-old man from Irvine, California, faces charges of wire fraud and bank robbery for allegedly stealing high-end violins worth over $300,000 across the US from 2020 to 2023 and robbing a US Bank branch in Irvine on April 2, 2024. According to a federal criminal complaint filed on May 7, Meng orchestrated a complex scheme to acquire and sell the stolen instruments.

Why this matters: This case highlights the sophistication and cunning of modern criminals, who are willing to go to great lengths to commit fraud and theft. It also underscores the importance of law enforcement agencies working together to track down and prosecute individuals who engage in these types of crimes.

Between August 2020 and April 2023, Meng allegedly contactedviolin shopsacross the country, posing as a serious collector to gain the trust of store owners. He would purchase violin bows and request trial periods for the instruments, only to keep them beyond the agreed-upon period. Meng provided excuses for the delays, negotiated prices, and in some cases, sent checks that would bounce or claimed the violins were lost in the mail. He ultimately sold the stolen instruments, which included a 1823 Lorenzo Ventapane violin valued at $175,000, to an unknowing dealer in Los Angeles.

The stolen items also included a 1913 Caressa & Francais violin worth $40,000, an 1870 Gand & Bernardel violin worth $60,000, a 1903 Guilio Degani violin worth $55,000, and a bow by François Lotte valued at $7,500. ThearticleFBI's Art Crime Team was already investigating Meng for the violin thefts when he allegedly committed a brazen bank robbery on April 2, 2024.

Surveillance footage from the US Bank branch on Barranca Parkway in Irvine shows Meng, disguised with a bandana, blue medical gloves, and a dark T-shirt with a "USA" emblem, nervously pushing a note to the teller. The note read, "$18,000. — Withdraw. Please. Stay Cool! No harm. Thx." article When the teller informed Meng that she did not have access to that much money, he allegedly said, "Give me whatever you have!" Meng fled the scene with $446 in a white Toyota Sienna minivan.

Investigators found evidence linking Meng to the robbery, including the USA T-shirt, at his Irvine home. A latent print from the robbery note was also identified as belonging to Meng. The FBI, with assistance from the Irvine Police Department and the Glendale Police Department, arrested Meng on April 11, 2024. If convicted, he faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each charge of wire fraud and bank robbery.

Mark, rareMeng, who listed himself as the CEO of the now-suspended Alton Global Holdings in Irvine, will remain in custody until his next hearing, which has yet to be scheduled. Federal prosecutors have filed a request to keep him behind bars, citing him as a flight risk. As the Justice Department stated, "A complaint is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law."

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