FBI’s art crime team is finding missing masterpieces

Ralph Ekberg was asleep when the thief sneaked into his room at a Springfield nursing home and lifted his favorite painting from the wall three years ago.

Ekberg treasured the artwork he’d purchased in 1965 for $400, although he had no idea of its current value.

Neither did the thief, who figured he might make a few hundred dollars by posting it for sale online.

He was wrong.

A California gallery offered $175,000 for the work by renowned American impressionist Edgar Payne called “Summer Clouds.”

With no proof of ownership other than his word that the painting belonged to his uncle, the thief shipped the 20-by-24-inch oil-on-canvas work to the West Coast and began enjoying his ill-gotten bonanza.

After the theft was reported, Springfield police turned to the FBI and its art crime team of specially trained agents to help track down the pilfered painting.

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