MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Nicolo Bonelli's life has become as sad as some of the melodies he once played as a Minnesota Orchestra violinist.

First Bonelli fell ill with dementia and was confined to a nursing home. Then it was discovered that a trusted friend had stolen much of his life savings. And saddest of all, perhaps, his beloved 18th century violin disappeared.

On Wednesday, the 85-year-old retired fiddler's little sister, 83-year-old Amelita Bonelli, was charged in the theft.

The 1759 Giovanni Baptista Guadagnini violin was recovered, spotted last November on the auction block at Christie's in London.

Authorities say the trail led to Ms. Bonelli, her friend Margarie Kidder, 66, and Kidder's son, Kenneth Talbot, 47.

Ms. Bonelli was charged with a felony count of wrongfully obtaining assistance, while the two others were charged with six felonies, including attempted theft by swindle.

Ms. Bonelli has said she hid the violin so the government couldn't sell it and use the proceeds to support her brother. But prosecutors say it went to Kidder and Talbot, who arranged for its sale at the auction house.

``I was completely dumbfounded,'' Ms. Bonelli said. ``I don't feel I've done anything wrong.''

If convicted, she could face 10 years in prison, but is unlikely to face any prison time, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

``The whole thing is tragic,'' said Karl Bushmaker, the violinist's court-appointed conservator. ``She (Amelita) is a vulnerable adult. I'm concerned she was taken advantage of and it saddens me deeply. I'm confident, as the process goes on, she'll be cleared.''

Bonelli's former caregiver, Stephen Huro, was convicted in January of swindling $104,000 from his life savings.

The violin was sold in March for $145,000 to an acquaintance of Bonnelli, who kept the proceeds.