Today the FBI and the Berwyn Police Department will hold a news conference announcing the return of 3,000 religious objects, books, and antiquities that were illegally removed from Italy and found in a home in Berwyn. This comes two years after John Sisto’s, the homeowner, died. On Friday the FBI said “many of the items … were determined to have been removed illegally from Italy and will be repatriated to Italian authorities later next week.”
“The house was filled with old books . . . ,” said Berwyn Police Chief William Kushner. “I am told that there are also papal documents dating back to the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries.”
Authorities have been researching the authenticity of the items and trying to determining how Sisto came to have them.
“We can’t question a dead man,” said Kushner. “We are just going to return the items to the Italian authorities.”
Sisto was born in Bari, Italy and immigrated to the United States at 29. After the items were discovered in his home in March 2007, the tidy brick bungalow was under constant protection by police for 15 days.
FBI agents contacted Italian authorities, and agents specializing in stolen art were seen entering the home. Rumors that the Swiss Guards of Vatican City were coming to the working-class suburb to collect their items caused media and neighbors to swarm the block for days, but the Swiss Guards never came.
When he lived in Chicago in 1958, Sisto had complained that someone stole 72 rare books worth $40,000 from the basement of his home. Many of them were later recovered.
He told police the books were given to him by his father, Giuseppe Sisto, a history and geography professor at the University of Bari.