Irvine man accused of stealing and reselling valuable violins, robbing bank

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

A man from Irvine has been charged in federal court for allegedly orchestrating a scheme to steal multiple violins worth thousands of dollars, and then robbing a bank when he realized federal investigators were closing in on him.

Mark Meng, 57, faces charges for bank robbery and wire fraud, according to the United States Department of Justice. He is expected in court Thursday.

Prosecutors allege that Meng, posing as a collector, contacted violin shops across the country in search of valuable violins, which he then asked to be loaned to him so he could decide whether or not to purchase them.

After receiving the violins, Meng kept them and eventually sold them to a violin dealer in Los Angeles who was unaware of the scheme.

Among the violins stolen was an 1823 Lorenzo Ventapane violin valued at $175,000 and an 1870 Grand & Bernardel violin values at $60,000. Two other violins and a bow worth a combined $100,000 were also among those stolen and sold to the dealer, the DOJ said.

The thefts eventually caught the attention of the FBI, which launched an investigation into Meng’s dealings.

A man is seen on surveillance cameras robbing a bank in Irvine on April 2, 2024 (Irvine Police Department)

After realizing he was under investigation, Meng allegedly entered a bank in Irvine wearing a hat, sunglasses, a bandana and latex gloves and passed a note to the bank teller that stated: “$18,000. – Withdraw. Please. Stay Cool! No harm. Thx.”

The bank teller handed the cash to the suspect, who then he fled the scene in a white minivan, according to charging documents.

A bank robber’s suspected getaway vehicle is seen on surveillance footage from April 2, 2024. (Irving Police Department)

The DOJ said a latent print left on the robbery note was traced back to Meng and the getaway vehicle was found at his home. He was arrested several days later and has remained in custody since.

If convicted on the two felony charges, Meng could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s dedicated Art Crime Team, with assistance from local police in Irvine and Glendale.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.

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