Enterprising Millennial Steals Museum Art to Pay Off Debt

The former Deutsches Museum employee then blew the rest on a Rolls Royce and expensive watches before getting caught.
Ryan Bassil
London, GB
Part of the Deustches Museum collection being handled by someone with white gloves
Part of the Deustches Museum collection being handled by someone with white gloves. Photo: Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images

Luxury lifestyle alert: A museum employee in Munich, Germany was caught stealing paintings, replacing them with straight-up fakes – all to pay off debt and fund a lavish life of classic cars and highly-priced accessories. 

The Deutsches Museum staffer swapped out “Das Märchen vom Froschkönig” (The Tale of the Frog Prince) by the German painter Franz von Stuck with a replica. In his heyday, von Stuck taught everyone from Paul Klee to Wassily Kandinsky. He also has the slightly more ignominious title of being Hitler’s favourite artist.


The thief – who is now 30 years old – has not been identified due to Germany’s strict privacy laws. He went on to steal and replace three other artworks during his tenure in collection management between 2016 and 2018. 

During the trial, the enterprising millennial admitted that he was pretty surprised at how easy it was to make off with the paintings. He escaped jail but was handed a 21-month suspended sentence and has to pay the museum over 60,600 euros ($64,200). 

Munich District Court said it took the man’s confession and “genuine remorse” into consideration while sentencing him. “He said he acted without thinking,” the court ruling reads. “He can no longer explain his behavior today.”

After boldly nicking “Das Märchen vom Froschkönig”, the thief told a Munich auction house that the painting had belonged to his family and received almost 50,000 euros ($52,000) for its sale. He went on to make another 11,490 euros ($12,184) after two other stolen paintings were sold.

The court said he used the proceeds to pay off his debts and fund a newly-minted “luxurious lifestyle”, which included buying a Rolls Royce and expensive watches. 

“The defendant shamelessly exploited the opportunity to access the storage rooms in the employer’s buildings and sold valuable cultural assets in order to secure an exclusive standard of living for himself and to show off,” the ruling said.

Sorry guys, it’s not known how he created the fake work – so you can step away from the Mona Lisa now.