Friday, July 4, 2014

Global Impact: FBI Recovers "Odalisque in Red Pants," Valued at $3 Million, Venezuelans Taking Possession on 7/7

According to The Latin American Tribune, the Henri Matisse painting stolen from a museum in Caracas in 2002, Odalisque in Red Pants, is scheduled to be collected by a Venezuelan team on Monday (July 7).

The 1925 work by French artist Henri Mattise was purchased by the Venezuela Museum of Contemporary Art in 1981 and was stolen from the walls of the museum and replaced by a fake some time in 2002. 
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recovered the painting in 2012, after a Cuban offered to sell the painting which was being held in México at the time.

US authorities will hand over the Matisse to Joel Espinoza, CEO of Procedural Performance, and a committee from Venezuela to return the painting to Caracas.
COMMENT: In January 2013, Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzmán, 46, a Cuban living in Miami, and María Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo, 50, of Mexico City, pleaded guilty and were sentenced to just less than 3 years and 2 years, respectively, on charges relating to the July 17, 2012 interstate transportation and attempted sale of the stolen Matisse painting in Miami Beach.

At the hearing, US District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks sentenced Pedro Marcuello to 33 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Maria Ornelas was sentenced to 21 months in prison, to be followed by three years supervised release. The defendants pleaded guilty on October 30, 2012 to charges relating to the transportation, possession and attempted sale of the stolen Henri Matisse painting.

According to court documents, between December 2011 and July 13, 2012, Marcuello, in a series of meetings with undercover agents of the FBI, negotiated the sale of an original Henri Matisse painting entitled “Odalisque in Red Pants,” which had been stolen from the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas, Venezuela, around December 2002. 

During the meetings, Marcuello agreed to sell the stolen painting to FBI undercover agents for approximately $740,000.00, and have the painting brought up to the US from México, where the painting was being stored. The courier was identified by Marcuello as co-defendant Ornelas. 

On July 16, 2012, Ornelas brought the stolen Matisse painting to Miami from Mexico City. According to court documents, the following day both Marcuello and Ornelas produced Matisse's “Odalisque in Red Pants” to undercover agents as part of the purported sales transaction. At the time of the purported sales transaction, both Marcuello and Ornelas knew the Matisse painting had been stolen.

The painting is valued at over $3 million. 

Marcuello and Ornelas had faced a possible maximum statutory sentence of ten years in prison. They had originally pleaded "Not Guilty" in July 2012, but changed their pleas to "Guilty" in October 2012.