January 9, 2013

Gundlach art theft: Six people charged with first-degree residential burglary, conspiracy and receiving stolen property three months after artworks recovered

One man has been accused of breaking into the private residence of financier Jeffrey Gundlach in Santa Monica, California, last September to steal 13 artworks by artists such as Piet Mondrian, Jasper Johns, and Joseph Cornell.  Hours later, the thief allegedly returned to take Gundlach's Porsche at the request of the manager of a Pasadena car & stereo shop where the paintings had been stashed.  It's about a 70-mile roundtrip between the site of the theft and the hiding place for the artwork.  Prosecutors also charge that the thief's mother and two brothers helped to conceal and sell the stolen paintings.  A sixth person is accused of receiving the stolen items.

This is the press release issued by the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office issued on January 4, 2013:
LOS ANGELES – Six people are awaiting arraignment this afternoon in connection with the $3.2 million theft of paintings, wine, jewelry and a car from financier Jeffrey Gundlach in September, the District Attorney’s Office announced. 
Darren Agee Merager, 43, allegedly broke into Gundlach’s Santa Monica home between Sept. 12 and Sept. 13, 2012, and stole valuable art work, jewelry and wine, said Deputy District Attorney Alva Lin with the Airport Branch office. Merager then allegedly returned hours later and stole Gundlach’s Porsche at the behest of Jay Jeffrey Nieto, 45. 
Nieto allegedly helped conceal the stolen art and other items at his Pasadena store. Pasadena police, who received a tip, and the Santa Monica Police Department investigated the case. 
Charged as co-conspirators are Merager’s 68-year-old mother, Brenda Joyce Merager, and two brothers, 29-year-old Wanis George Wahba and his 26-year-old brother, Ely George Wahba. The three allegedly tried to sell and conceal the stolen items. In addition, Wilmer Bolosan Cadiz, 40, is charged with conspiracy and receiving stolen items. 
The six, who are charged in case SA082879 with multiple counts, including first-degree residential burglary, conspiracy and receiving stolen property, are scheduled to be arraigned at the Los Angeles Superior Court, Airport Branch, in Department 144. 
Prosecutors will ask that bail be set at $10 million for each defendant. 
Merager, who has multiple prior convictions, is facing more than nine years in state prison if convicted.
Here's a few links to earlier coverage on this blog regarding the theft and the recovery of Gundlach's stolen art.

Here in the Beverly Hills Weekly last February is a notice that Merager was arrested on January 25, 2012 for receiving "known stolen property"; and here is a notice in the Laguna Beach Independent that Merager was arrested on May 17 for a Beverly Hills warrant for stolen property and that bail had been set at $500,000.  Merager, who's residence was identified as Lake Havasu (Arizona), travels extended from Los Angeles to Orange County.

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