“It's Like Walking Into ‘The Da Vinci Code'”

Suburban Chicago man hoarded 3,500 ancient artifacts

The FBI on Monday showed off a cache of ancient artifacts that a suburban Chicago man apparently hoarded in his home for decades – but no one is quite sure why.

Thousands of items were recovered from John Sisto’s Berwyn, Ill., home after he died in 2007. While the FBI isn’t exactly sure how much it’s all worth, they estimate the total value is somewhere between $5 million and $10 million.

"It's absolutely amazing. It's like walking into 'The Da Vinci Code,'" Berwn Police Chief William Kushner said. "I've been a police officerr for 32 years, this is definitely the most unusual thing I've ever encountered."

The treasure trove includes several hundred Etruscan artifacts, many of which are circa 500 to 900 B.C. There are parchments, manuscripts and Papal wax seals, some dating to the 1100s. More than 1,000 books were found, some hand-written, dating to the 1700s. Letters written by former kings, popes and other members of the Roman Catholic Church were also found.

About 3,500 items were recovered, but only 1,600 were identified as stolen from Italy.  Those are being repatriated to the Italian government, but owners of the other 1,900 or so items couldn't be found, and those are being returned to Sisto's estate.

While the artifacts were recovered more than two years ago, Monday was the first time the FBI showed them to the public. Investigators believe Sisto's father, who lived in Italy, may have secretly shipped them to Illinois.

The FBI believes Sisto’s father, Giuseppe “Joseph” Sisto, began shipping the items to his son in the 1960s and continued until he died in 1982. He obtained the items through various means, including thieves who would loot private collections, the FBI said.

Investigators believe the elder Sisto wanted his son to sell the items at an antiques shop he ran in Berwyn.  But it appears John Sisto was interested in the artifacts for their historic value, and kept them.  The rest of Sisto's family didn’t know about the cache of items until he died in 2007, and when they found them, they called police.

"He had a regular old car. He came out and cut his lawn," neighbor Raul Quinones said about Sisto. "He was good at keeping a secret."

Contact Us