One of the biggest problems with stealing a multi-million dollar piece of artwork is unloading it. More often than not, stolen artwork is tracked down by authorities who bust the thieves during the sales process. That is the case with a stolen Matisse painting last month.
The stolen was a $3.7 million Henri Matisse painting stored in a red tube.
The piece, "Oalisque in Red Pants," was wrapped in other paintings to make it less conspicuous. After all, moving a stolen French masterpiece through international airports and Miami streets isn’t easy. This as reported on bostonherald.com.
The thief was busted by a pair of undercover agents posing as buyers tracked down the 1925 painting and finally arrested Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman, of Miami, and Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo, of Mexico City.
The painting was stolen almost a decade ago from a Venezuelan museum and had been swapped for a forgery at the Caracas Contemporary Art Museum. The museum purchased the piece in 1981 for more than $400,000.
The 46-year-old Guzman told an FBI agent that a friend had tried to sell the painting in Spain, but the sale fell through when he couldn’t agree on a price.
The piece found its way to the 50-year-old Ornelas’ home in Mexico City, where she looked up the piece online to see what she was dealing with. Her husband is a trusted associate of Guzman.
After an agent met with Guzman, he arranged for Ornelas to get a visa, hop on a plane and come to Miami with the painting. She carried the multi-million-dollar artwork through customs at Miami International Airport.
After a few meetings at a coffee shop and a Miami Beach restaurant, the two agents made arrangements to meet in a room at the Loews Hotel in Miami Beach to purchase the painting from Guzman and Ornelas.
Rarely do thieves of high-value art not get caught. Whether it is a shirt at Kohl’s, your neighbor’s toaster or a million-dollar painting, theft is wrong. I hope these thieves take an anti-theft class and are forced to take a counseling for a long time to overcome their theft behavior.