$10 million in stolen Los Angeles art recovered

AP News
|
Posted: Dec 17, 2014 8:53 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities have recovered $10 million worth of art — including paintings by Chagall and Diego Rivera — that were stolen in one of Los Angeles' largest art heists.

The FBI and Los Angeles recovered nine pieces of art at a West LA hotel in October, and a man was arrested, the Los Angeles Times reported (http://lat.ms/1zxsXo4 ), citing court documents.

The works, including Chagall's "Les Paysans" and Diego Rivera's "Mexican Peasant," were among a dozen swiped from the Encino home of a wealthy real estate investor on the morning of Aug. 24, 2008, by a crook or crooks who entered through the unlocked kitchen door, police said.

The elderly residents were in their bedrooms and heard nothing, police said.

The case grew cold until this September, when Detective Donald Hrycyk of the LAPD's art theft detail received a tip that a man in Europe known as "Darko" was seeking buyers for the stolen art, the Times said.

Darko "indicated that he was merely a middleman for an unknown person in possession of the art in California," Hrycyk wrote in a search warrant.

During the ensuing undercover operation, Raul Espinoza, 45, was contacted at the hotel, where he tried to sell the estimated $10 million worth of paintings for $700,000 cash, prosecutors contend.

Three stolen paintings remain missing.

Espinoza pleaded not guilty in October to receiving stolen property and remains jailed on $5 million bail.

Messages seeking comment were left for his public defender, Aparna Voleti, on Wednesday.

The Times said Hrycyk sought permission this month to search Espinoza's cellphone for possible photos or communications that could reveal the identities of the thieves involved in the original burglary.