GoLocalProv | News | U.S. Attorney: Lindemanns to Return $20M in Looted Art — Family Owns Naming Rights to Brown’s PAC

Friday, September 15, 2023

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PHOTO: Warren Jaegger

The billionaire family that bought the naming rights to Brown University’s Performing Arts Center, is returning an estimated $20 million in looted art to the country of Cambodia.

The Lindemann family has been tied to numerous controversies, including one of Rhode Island’s worst environmental crimes and a contract hit on a show horse, besides the looted art.

This week, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced that the Lindemann family has agreed to surrender 33 pieces of art.


Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the return of 33 Khmer antiquities to the Kingdom of Cambodia, pursuant to an agreement between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the family of the late George Lindemann.  

The collection includes statues dating to the 10th and 12th centuries that were originally looted from religious and archeological sites in Cambodia.  The antiquities were turned over to Cambodia on September 11, 2023, and a ceremony celebrating their repatriation will be held in Cambodia at a later date. 

The antiquities returned to Cambodia include a monumental 10th-century statue of Dhrishtadyumna, stolen from Prasat Chen in Koh Ker, the ancient capital of the Khmer kingdom; statues stolen from Prasat Krachap in Koh Ker, including a 10th-century sculpture depicting Ardhanarishvara (half-male, half-female deity) and a 10th-century Anantashayana Vishnu (reclining Vishnu with Lakshmi); as well as six heads of devas (angels) and asuras (demons) removed from the gates to Angkor Thom in the Angkor Wat complex; and a kneeling figure from Banteay Srei, a 10th-century temple in Angkor Wat, according to the government.

The Lindemanns’ involvement in the looted art did not come out voluntarily — a leading art publication and the Washington Post unveiled the family’s role.

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The looted art included Three of the Angkor Thom Heads. PHOTO: U.S. DOJ

The late George Lindemann made his wealth in contact lenses, mobile phones, and the energy industry. It was the energy company that made news in Rhode Island and nationally. 

GoLocal had previously reported on the now-deceased patriarch of the family when he headed the energy company Southern Union Group — which was fined $18 million by a Rhode Island jury for a mercury spill in Pawtucket. That penalty was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, and ultimately, his company was only penalized $500,000 by federal court judge Will Smith.

His wife Frayda B. Lindemann, is now a member of the Brown University Corporation.

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New York Times

Horse Murder

In 1996, the Lindemanns’ son made global news for hiring a hitman to kill his show horse. George, Jr. is also a Brown University grad.

The Sun-Sentinal reported, “George Lindemann Jr., an heir to one of Palm Beach County’s wealthiest families, faces a 33-month sentence in federal prison for ordering a hit on his showjumping horse in 1990.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Cox said at the time of the trial the horse killing was carried out so Lindemann could save face.

“He had the horse killed because the horse made him look bad. He found it easier to have the horse killed than to admit to those in the horsey set that he had made a mistake in buying the horse,” Cox said, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

The New York Times wrote, “Judge [George] Marovich called the pair’s acts ‘despicable and reprehensible’ and said he wanted the sentences to send a message to the country club and ‘horsy set.'”

Lindemann’s prison term was the stiffest to date at the time, resulting from a government inquiry of what prosecutors called the equestrian world’s “dirty little secret”- the killing of horses for insurance money.

Brown has refused to disclose the cost of the performing arts center and told GoLocal previously they were aware of George Jr.’s horse killing when they sold the naming rights to the performing arts center. 

“Brown has detailed policies and practices in place to guide our work with donors, including gift acceptance and naming policies. Among the provisions, our policies make clear that acceptance of a gift does not imply or mean that the University endorses or approves of a donor’s views, opinions, businesses or activities. Those policies and practices guided our decision-making, and we accepted this gift with full confidence,” said Brian Clark, Associate Vice President for News and Editorial Development in a statement to GoLocal in May. 

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