08:32 p.m. PST  -- 5 February 2003

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FBI had been investigating UCLA professor, alleged T-Shirt Bandit, for years

(Click on photos for larger image)

Light fixture in Besser's Los Angeles apartment were the FBI had a hidden camera

Justice Department photos showing Besser and accomplices smuggling T-shirts into the US in wheel well of automobile.

FBI photo of T-shirt Bandit accomplice preparing to hide shirts in artwork being shipped to the United States

Besser caught on film breaking into Rio de Janeiro hotel, amazingly he was not wearing one of his famous disguises

Info Studies Professor Besser caught attention of FBI back in the 1960's, suspect in T-shirt thefts for past 10 years.

LOS ANGELES (CNews) -- The surprising arrest of UCLA Information Studies professor Howard Besser yielded startling new information on his past activities.  The FBI reported they have maintained a file on Besser since his activities in radical politics in the 1960's.  More recently, he became a suspect in the well known worldwide T-shirt thefts, when an alert customs agent contacted the FBI about a suitcase full of used T-shirts. 

Besser was returning from a trip to [add] when he caught the attention of customs agent [name].  She couldn't believe that "one person could wear so many T-shirts on one trip.  All of the T-shirts looked like they had been worn, not one was new, there must have been 50 T-shirts in his suitcase."

CNews was able to get exclusive photos of the FBI surveillance operation that yield a large amount of evidence against Besser.  The FBI had cameras and microphones hidden in Besser's Los Angeles apartment and in his other residences in California.  

Besser had a number of accomplices and used many tricks for smuggling stolen T-shirts into the United States.  To the right are FBI images of Besser and accomplices hidding T-shirts in the wheel well of a car.  Another method of smuggling stolen T-shirts into the United States was by hiding them in the back of paintings and other art works being shipped to the U.S.

International police organizations, such as Interpol, were also involved in tracking Besser's movements during his numerous trips outside the United States.  Brazilian police sources told CNews Besser had been closely followed during a 2001 trip.  Undercover agents had even taken pictures of Besser braking in to a Rio de Janeiro hotel.  These photos they say are a testimony of his last 'big score" of T-shirts.

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related stories/links:  FBI Wanted Poster | President Bush's Comments | Comments from UCLA

A fictional news story created by Rachel Rose for Howard Besser's Development of Cultural Information Sources Using Digital Multimedia Winter 2002 UCLA Department of Information Studies

Last updated on: February 21, 2002