Axelrod, a former publisher of pet-books, was indicted on tax fraud charges unrelated to the instruments in April. He fled to Cuba, but was arrested in Berlin two months later.
In February 2003, the NJSO bought 30 rare violins, violas, and cellos for $17 million from Axelrod, who claimed they were worth $50 million. At the time, the deal was hailed as a coup for the orchestra, giving it what was said to be the world's best-equipped string section.
After Axelrod's indictment, however, questions were raised about the authenticity or quality of several of the instruments. According to experts hired by the Star-Ledger the collection was worth no more than the $17 million the NJSO paid for it, and possibly less.
Several federal investigations are looking into the sale, as well as a donation of other instruments by Axelrod to the Smithsonian Institution, to determine whether the philanthropist inflated the value of the instruments as part of a tax-fraud scheme.