US police search for thieves in Rembrandt heist

LOS ANGELES, August 15, 2011 (AFP) - Police were on the lookout Monday for two people suspected in the theft of a Rembrandt drawing from a luxury hotel in the California beachfront resort of Marina del Rey, Los Angeles police said.

"The Judgment," a pen and ink drawing with an estimated value of $250,000, was on display for an exhibition held in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton hotel that also featured a Picasso.

The Dutch master's piece was stolen late Saturday around 10:30 pm (0530 GMT Sunday) when an accomplice of the thief distracted the exhibition's curator, Los Angeles County Sheriff spokesman Steve Whitmore said.

"The curator turned his attention away from the exhibit, toward this other individual. And when he turned back, the Rembrandt was gone," Whitmore explained. "This appears to be a well-thought, well-planned, well-executed theft."

Investigators say a video surveillance camera may have recorded the theft, and the spokesman stressed that any such footage would "help us tremendously" in solving the crime.

"Our confidence is high that we're going to apprehend the culprit and return the original Rembrandt to its rightful owner," he added, noting that the hotel has "one of the best" hotel security teams in the United States.

The drawing and dozens more pieces on sale were exhibited on easels.