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Robert K. Wittman, a former FBI agent and author of "Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures,"will speak at Lycoming College as part of the 13th annual Larry Strauser Lectureship in Criminal Justice on Thursday, April 5, at 11:30 a.m. in the Mary Lindsay Welch Honors Hall. He will discuss international art theft and stolen cultural property. The event is free and open to the public.
Wittman joined the FBI as a special agent in 1988 and was assigned to the Philadelphia Field Division. As a result of specialized training in art, antiques, jewelry and gem identification, he served as the FBI's investigative expert in this field. During his 20-year career, he recovered more than $225 million in stolen art and cultural property resulting in the prosecution and conviction of numerous individuals.
In 2005, Wittman was instrumental in the creation of the FBI's rapid deployment Art Crime Team (ACT). He was named ACT's senior investigator and instructed the team members in how to conduct cultural property investigations. Conducting investigations and instructing international police and museums in investigation, recovery and security techniques, he has represented the United States around the world.
Whitman spent much of his career travelling, undercover and usually unarmed, to rescue paintings by Rockwell, Rembrandt, Monet and Picasso, the golden armor of an ancient Peruvian king, the headdress Geronimo wore at his final pow-wow and the rare Civil War flag carried into battle by one of the nation's first African-American regiments. He also recovered an original copy of the Bill of Rights and cracked the scam that rocked the PBS series "Antiques Roadshow."
In 2010, Wittman published his memoir "Priceless: How I went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures," which recounts his career and activities while working as an undercover agent. He continues to use his expertise as an art security consultant for the private sector.
The Strauser Lecture Series, sponsored by Lycoming's criminal justice department, is held each year to honor the memory of Larry Strauser, a 1959 Lycoming graduate and member of the College's faculty from 1973 until his death in 1999. Strauser, who earned a master's in public administration from the University of Arizona, started the interdisciplinary criminal justice program at Lycoming in 1977.
Founded in 1812 and celebrating its bicentennial during the 2011-12 academic year, Lycoming College is a national liberal arts and sciences school dedicated to the undergraduate education of 1,400 students. It offers 35 academic majors and is recognized as a Tier 1 institution by U.S. News & World Report. Located near the banks of the Susquehanna River in Williamsport, Pa., Lycoming is one of the 50 oldest colleges in the nation.