HomeTrendingMild-Mannered Teachers Hid Life Of Crime, Nephew Inherits Their Mess And The...

Mild-Mannered Teachers Hid Life Of Crime, Nephew Inherits Their Mess And The FBI Call


Todd could not believe what was happening. The man on the phone to him had calmly explained that he was working with the FBI and what his favorite aunt and uncle had done. He felt sick.

His own flesh and blood could not possibly have committed one of the biggest crimes of the 1980s. That was just not the aunt and uncle he remembered. Then a seed of doubt started to sprout in his mind. Did he really know them at all?

Brand New Family

Todd Philips was a hardworking architect from Albuquerque, New Mexico. He and his wife Tess had just had their first child, a little girl called Rose. 

Family had always been so important to Todd. Growing up, he was extremely close to his mysterious aunt and uncle. His new family was starting out a brand new chapter in life when Todd received the life-changing news.

Well Regarded

Rita and Jerome Altar were school teachers and were well-loved by everyone they knew in Cliff, New Mexico where they lived. Rita was remembered as a shining beacon of kindness to all those around her.

Todd, in particular, was fascinated by his uncle Jerome. He always had a different story for him about his life every time he met him. However, his best-kept secret was never revealed to Todd until after he had passed.

Executor Of Their Estate

In 2010, Jerome passed away from natural causes and five years later, so did Rita. Their own children lived in different countries so as Todd lived the closest to where their home was, he was named the executor of their estate.

Had Todd not been given this position of power, the Altar’s crimes may have never come to light and never tainted the nice memories he had of his aunt and uncle.

For Sale

Todd, who was sorely in need of whatever extra cash he could get with his new baby, had put the Altar’s house up for sale. He had also invited various art and antique dealers around to assess all their fabulous possessions.

What one of the dealers he invited around discovered amongst the Altar’s possessions would be all the information he needed to call the FBI.


Everything was snapped up by an art dealer by the name of David Van Auker for a steal at $2,000 for everything. Todd wasn’t sure of the value of any of it and was just happy to have made a profit.

Van Auker loaded all of his haul into the back of a truck he had parked outside. He knew as soon as he arrived at the Altar’s huge mansion that something was very off about the place. He was about to find out what exactly it was.

Can’t top Staring

There was one painting in his new collection that David could not stop staring at. There was something totally captivating about it that just commanded attention above all the other paintings he had.

He could never quite put his finger on what was so special about the painting until that one fateful day when a lady walked in and told him something that turned his world upside down.

No Way

A quirky looking young lady with round glasses and a blunt bob walked into David’s shop one day. She smiled at him before beginning rifling through the paintings he had in stock.

David observed the young woman as she studied each painting one by one. She picked up one in particular and he saw her eyes visibly widen from across the store. “NO WAAAY!” she said loudly.

A Call

“Hello?” said Todd as he answered the phone to an unknown number. “Hi, Mr Philips, I’m calling from the FBI. I believe you’re the nephew of Jerome and Rita Altar?” the voice asked.

As the man explained to him why he was calling, Todd felt the color leave his face in an instant. There was no way this man was describing his beloved aunt and uncle. How could they have kept something this despicable hidden their whole lives and lived with the guilt?


The painting that the young artistic lady had been in shock over had been assessed professionally and it was confirmed to be Woman Ochre by Willem de Kooning, an expressionist painter. The painting was valued at over $100 million dollars.

But how had this priceless work of art ended up in the home of two people on schoolteacher’s salaries? It just didn’t add up. That was until the man from the FBI told Todd what his aunt and uncle had done in the 80s.


Back in 1985 in Tuscon, Arizona the painting Woman Ochre was kept in the city’s largest art gallery. On a November morning, the gallery was getting ready to open to the public. A man and woman knocked to come in and the man asked to use the bathroom. The security guard said yes.

The man made his way into the museum as the woman stood chatting to the security guard about the weather and art. The security guard never noticed the man slip back out past him. The woman bade him goodbye and the two sped away in a red convertible getaway car. Those two people were the Altars.

Cold Case

Todd could not believe what he had just learned about his beloved aunt and uncle. They had got away scot-free with it in the 80s as they had no security cameras but this case had laid cold for years.

When the painting was returned to the gallery that it rightfully belonged to, art lovers around the world were overjoyed. For Todd, however, it was a bittersweet occasion.


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