By Greg Argos


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – An unusual piece of artwork is now in the wrong hands. It was stolen off a wall in University City.

Tim Barton is a nuclear engineer, but his passion is art.

“What I love is this [art],” Barton said.

He often loses track of time when creating it downstairs in his home studio.

“This is what really makes me happy,” Barton said.

But what has really bothered him is the fact that one of his most-prized pieces is now part of a criminal FBI investigation.

“It took 34 years to assemble all the stuff for it, so there was really quite a lot of sentimental value there,” Barton explained. “How could you take it and just walk out of the building without one person saying, ‘wait!’”

Barton’s piece of artwork, a collage of license plates from cities he’s lived in over the past few decades, has been displayed at Penn Medicine’s Perelman Center, part of a year-long art exhibit.

“It was exciting, yes. It was exciting to get in there,” Barton said.

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But on April 4, around 1 p.m., someone took it of the wall and walked out.

Penn Security called Barton a full week later.

“They asked me if I had taken my artwork out of the Perelman Center, and I said no I hadn’t gotten the email that the show was over. ‘Well, we think it’s been stolen then,’” Barton said.

Penn Police confirm they have surveillance video of the theft, but won’t release it or give any other details of the suspect.

SEPTA confirms a man carrying the piece of art walked onto a nearby University City Regional Rail Train with it. Their video is also under wraps.

“I’m still a little stunned. I still don’t get how that happens,” Barton added.

The FBI stolen art team is also assisting and though Barton knows it’s unlikely they’ll recover his piece, he at least hopes the brazen thief is admiring his work.

“The reality is that 1.5% of stolen artwork ever gets found again,” Barton said. “There is a bit of comfort knowing that if it is hanging in someone’s house, they’re enjoying it, you know.”