Looking at it one way, there was a certain twisted creativity to it.
It just isn’t every day that a high-school dropout and twice-convicted felon, your basic street criminal, as he was described, is the alleged mastermind of a crime that no one in law enforcement the world over had ever quite seen. Maybe it wasn’t the crime of the century, but it definitely was the crime of the century in Milwaukee. The city, known for beer, bratwurst, the Brewers, and frighteningly large portions at German restaurants, had never been a hotbed of headlines. But this made national and world news not seen since the days of the city’s own serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
The Milwaukee Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation put out dozens of officers and detectives and supervisors to crack the case and find a suspect named Salah Salahadyn.
Forty-two years old with a thin frame and the studied manner of someone trying very hard to be measured and professorial when he is neither, Salahadyn was a Milwaukee native and fancied himself a high-end art thief, according to police.
It is not exactly clear why he fancied himself this way. There was no evidence that he was a high-end art thief, except for one strangely bungled attempt roughly 15 years earlier in which he tried to return—for a finder’s fee—a $25,000 statue to the same Milwaukee gallery owner from whom it had been stolen. (In an interview with Vanity Fair, Salahadyn insists that he did not know the statue had been stolen.) He was arrested by police and given a five-year sentence for receiving stolen property.
His lifestyle, a free apartment and $400 a month in return for managing the apartment building, with two of his five children under the age of three, and fighting to make ends meet over the years by selling weed, did not seem the stuff of The Thomas Crown Affair either. He was articulate and well spoken, somewhat at odds with his fractured life. You couldn’t help but feel it all should have been better. But you only had to spend a minute with him to figure out that he loved notoriety even if it was bad, that he had a very serious case of grandiosity.
Still, there was method. . .