Now retired Lynn Chaffinch was the only art expert working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation at one time, prior to the creation of the FBI's Art Theft Program. Now, Bonnie Magness-Gardiner has assumed Lynn's old duties and is Program Manager of the Art Theft Program at FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. She manages the National Stolen Art File and provides support for the Art Crime Team, twelve special agents investigating cultural property cases in the U.S. and abroad.
Lynn Chaffinch was born in Texas; her father was an Air Force colonel. Lynn graduated from the University of California-Davis with a BA in Anthropology. She continued her studies at San Francisco State University and received a Master's Degree in Museum Studies. Prior to being recruited by the F.B.I., Lynn held several positions in the museum field. She has worked as an archivist, and cultural anthropologist, at the Smithsonian Institution, the Los Angeles Museum of Western Heritage, the Oakland Museum, and Monticello ( the Virginia home of Thomas Jefferson).
Although Lynn was not a special agent; she does follow leads and assists agents in their investigations in many valuable ways. Lynn had over 11,000 special agents from all over the world who were ready to intervene on her behalf. The F.B.I. has 56 field offices, and 400 smaller offices, including over 40 legal attaches located overseas where requests for assistance are made by the host nations.
Lynn managed the massive computerized database called the National Stolen Art File. The NSAF contains more than 100,000 images and descriptions of stolen art and cultural property. This powerful resource is restricted to the public and is available for law enforcement use only.
Lynn Chaffinch had many contacts in the art community. She worked closely with museums, auction houses, dealers, and collectors, who gave her leads, as well as assisted with their various areas of expertise, such as provenance research, appraisals and authentication.
The U.S. is a major consumer of art and antiquities; it possesses a major market where 60% of all the art that is sold in the world trades hands. Much of that art is stolen. In 1994, the U.S. Government passed legislation that makes most art theft a federal crime ( Federal time means NO PAROLE!). If a stolen art object is valued at more than $5000 (U.S.) and is more than 100 years old, it is a violation of federal law to possess it. If a stolen art object is worth more than $100,000, it is a violation of fed law to possess regardless of its age.
Lynn, who was also the in-house program analyst for the F.B.I.'s stolen jewelry and gem theft investigations, was a great asset to the United States of America and our law enforcement community.
You may visit the F.B.I.'s Art Theft Program website on our Links Page.