Showing posts with label sentencing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sentencing. Show all posts

December 21, 2016

Repatriation: Museo Civico di Castelvecchio - 17 paintings stolen on November 19, 2015


Following the convictions of many of the accomplices arrested in connection with the theft of 17 paintings stolen on November 19, 2015 from the Museo Civico di Castelvecchio, the paintings are finally cleared to return to Italy today.

In a ceremony held earlier this morning, broadcast live from the Khanenko museum in Kiev at 11:45 GMT+1, the stolen works of art were formally released in the presence of the President of the Ukraine, Petro Porošenko to the Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, Dario Franceschini and an Italian delegation made up of:

Flavio Tosi, the mayor of Verona
Gen. Fabrizio Parrulli, Commander of the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale
Dr. Gennaro Ottaviano, the Deputy Prosecutor of Verona
Dr. Vincenzo Nicolì, Director of the Central Operational Service (SCO)
Roberto Benedetto, the head of the mobile police squad of Verona,
Antonio Coppola, Commander of the Operational department of the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale
Dr. Ettore Napione, Curator of the Museo Civico di Castelvecchio


This afternoon, at 17.30 GMT+1 the 17 works of art will be presented back to the Verona public at the Museo Civico di Castelvecchio where a ceremony will be held welcoming the paintings back home.

All 17 artworks were recovered May 6, 2016 in the Ukrainian region of Odessa during a raid carried out by the special Ukrainian police forces.  The museum pieces were found wrapped in plastic bags and hidden in a willow forest, located on Turunciuk island, a parcel of land that sits on the left branch of the Dniester River that flows along the border between Moldova and the Ukraine.

Ricciardi Pasquale Silvestri, the point of connection between the Italians and the Moldavians criminals involved in the theft, was sentenced December 5, 2015 to 10 years and eight months for his role in the armed robbery and kidnapping.  His brother, Francesco Silvestri, the contracted security guard at the Castelvecchio museum on the night of the robbery, also involved in the plot, was sentenced to 10 years for his key role in illustrating the vulnerabilities of the museum. 

Pasquale's Moldovan girlfriend, Svetlana Tkachuk received a six-year prison sentence, for her role and translator between the members of the transnational organized crime group.  Another co-conspirator, also from Moldova, Victor Potinga, was sentenced to five years. Potinga transported the stolen artworks in his van from Verona to Brescia the evening of the theft. 

Two other defendants, Anatolie Burlac Jr. and Denis Damaschin each entered guilty pleas earlier in the year for their own roles in the crime.  Damaschin was sentenced to 3 years and 4 months incarceration for receiving stolen goods, having stored the paintings in his home in Brescia, in Northern Italy before they were disguised in television boxes and transported to the Ukraine. 

Arrested in Romania and extradited to Italy after some initial confusion over his identity, his father is Anatolie Burlac Sr., who is also wanted for questioning in the crime, Burlac Jr. received the lightest of the sentences handed down in connection with the crime, only one year eight months.   This was most likely due to the critical statements he made while being interrogated by the Italian authorities, which contributed to the convictions handed down in the case. Other accomplices, arrested last March, are still to be tried in Moldova.


Testimony presented in the case against the six in Italy indicated that the theft was originally planned for the 18th of November. It was then postponed to the next evening as the accomplices arrived at the museum on the 18th only to find additional cars in the parking lot indicating their was too much activity in the area to proceed.

According to defence attorneys, the original plan was to rob the museum of one painting only, a theft to order, with only the guard-accomplice present who was to pretend to authorities that he had been subdued during the robbery. Unfortunately, the accomplices arrived prematurely while the museum's cashier was still in the building. By tying her up and gagging her along with their accomplice-cohort, the thieves transformed the museum theft from a simple robbery to armed robbery and kidnapping. 

Ukrainian law enforcement believes that the works were shipped out of Moldova and into the Ukraine after arrests were made in the case in mid-March.  If the shift was made to hide the evidence or to send the works onwards to buyers in either somewhere in the Ukraine or Russia has never been established with certainty, however Italian police and Ukrainian media reports have suggested that the final buyer was rumored to be a wealthy collector in Chechnya.  According to the Russian news agency TASS, the paintings were sent from Moldova to the Ukraine via the postal service and at the time of their discovery, were awaiting transfer back to Moldova.

December 7, 2016

Sentencing: Museum Theft at the Museo Civico di Castelvecchio


On December 5, 2016 Judge Luciano Gorra, of Italy's Verona tribunal sentenced four of twelve accomplices arrested in connection with the theft of 17 paintings stolen on November 19, 2015 from the Museo Civico di Castelvecchio. 

Ricciardi Pasquale Silvestri, the point of connection between the Italians and the Moldavians criminals involved in the theft, was given the heaviest prison sentence: 10 years and eight months for his role in the armed robbery and kidnapping.  His brother, Francesco Silvestri, the contracted security guard at the Castelvecchio museum on the night of the robbery, also involved in the plot, was sentenced to 10 years for his key role in illustrating the vulnerabilities of the museum. 

Pasquale's Moldovan girlfriend, Svetlana Tkachuk received a six-year prison sentence, for her role and translator between the members of the transnational organized crime group.  Another co-conspirator, also from Moldova, Victor Potinga, was sentenced to five years. Potinga transported the stolen artworks in his van from Verona to Brescia the evening of the theft. 

Two other defendants, Anatolie Burlac Jr. and Denis Damaschin had each entered pleas earlier for their roles in the crime.  Damaschin was sentenced to 3 years and 4 months incarceration for receiving stolen goods, having stored the paintings in his home in Brescia, in Northern Italy before they were disguised in television boxes and transported to the Ukraine. 

Arrested in Romania and extradited to Italy after some initial confusion over his identity, his father is Anatolie Burlac Sr., who is also wanted for questioning in the crime, Burlac Jr. received the lightest of the sentences handed down to date: one year eight months.   This was most likely due to the critical statements he made while being interrogated by the Italian authorities, which contributed to the convictions handed down in the case. Other accomplices, arrested last March, have asked to be tried in Moldova.


Testimony presented in the case against the six in Italy indicate that the theft was originally planned for the 18th of November. It was then postponed to the next evening as the accomplices arrived at the museum on the 18th only to find additional cars in the parking lot indicating their was too much activity in the area to proceed.

According to defence attorneys, the original plan was to rob the museum of one painting only, a theft to order, with only the guard-accomplice present who was to pretend to authorities that he had been subdued during the robbery. Unfortunately, the accomplices arrived prematurely while the museum's cashier was still in the building. By tying her up and gagging her along with their accomplice-cohort, the thieves transformed the museum theft from a simple robbery to armed robbery and kidnapping. 

Photo Credit Sputnik News
Ukrainian law enforcement believes that the works were shipped out of Moldova and into the Ukraine after arrests were made in the case in mid-March.  If the shift was made to hide the evidence or to send the works onwards to buyers in either somewhere in the Ukraine or Russia has not been established with certainty, however Italian police and Ukrainian media reports have suggested that the final buyer was rumored to be a wealthy collector in Chechnya.  According to the Russian news agency TASS, the paintings were sent from Moldova to the Ukraine via the postal service and at the time of their discovery, were awaiting transfer back to Moldova.

All 17 artworks were recovered May 6, 2016 in the Ukrainian region of Odessa during a raid carried out by the special Ukrainian police forces.  The museum pieces were found wrapped in plastic bags and hidden in a willow forest a few kilometers from the border between Moldova and Ukraine on Turunciuk island, a body of land that sits on the left branch of the Dniester River.  Despite their hide spot, the paintings were recovered in better condition that would be expected given their multi-country transport. 

Ironically the wheels of Italian justice have proved surprisingly fast.  Faster even than international negotiations with the representatives of the Kiev government, who currently still holds 14 of the artworks, one year onward after the theft.  The 17 artworks worth an estimated €10m-€15m, are no longer held ransom by an opportunistic group of thieves.  They are being held hostage by diplomatic bureaucracy.

February 14, 2015

Raul Espinoza sentenced to more than four years in state prison for receiving art stolen from Encino home in 2008

Raul Espinoza
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Brian Melley reported in the Associated Press Feb. 13 ("Man who tried to sell stolen Encino art gets 4 years in state prison") that Raul Espinoza was 'sentenced Friday to more than four years in state prison' when he 'pleaded no contest to one count of receiving property stolen in 2008 from the Encino home of Susan and Anton Roland:
He [Espinoza] was asking $700,000 for works he said were worth $5 million, though the paintings have since been valued for as much as $23 million, said Ricardo Santiago, a spokesman for the Los Angeles district attorney.
Melley/AP wrote that Espinoza's restitution hearing is scheduled for March 25.

(CNN also identified the owners of the art collection here).

Veronica Rocha for The Los Angeles Times reported that Espinoza's sentence was "four years and four months".

In May 2012, Mash Leo for The Jewish Daily reported that Susan and Anton Roland donated 15 works of art (including a Francis Bacon triptych worth $75 million) to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art:
This collection was accumulated over a lifetime by Susan Roland and her husband, the late Anton Roland. A teary-eyed George Roland paid tribute to his parents’ passion for art collecting: “Father was born in Carpathia [Czechoslovakia]. Mother was born in Hungary. They married in Budapest. In 1946 they moved to Paris and dreamt of owning paintings…. In 1949 they bought a Chagall in Israel [and] kept on buying paintings all over Europe. When [Dad] bought the Francis Bacon painting, his wife remarked that it was immoral to pay so much money [for it]. He pacified her by saying that it would eventually go to the Tel Aviv Museum…. It was their greatest wish to have a collection and to donate it after our passing, to share it with the Israeli people.’”

A catalogue on the donation from the Rolands to the Israeli art gallery can be purchased on Amazon.

An online article in "15 Minutes Magazine" quoted George Roland on his parents:
"My parents were opposites," George said. His mother came from Hungary and father from the Carpathians. Dad studied in a yeshiva in Prague when the war broke out.
He found his future wife on the street wearing a Jewish star. "Why are you wearing that?"
"They told me to."
"Just because they told you to do it doesn’t mean you do it."

He ripped the star off her coat and took her to the underground where he was working as a forger for the resistance against the Nazis. They stayed together ever since.
Related ARCA blog posts:




July 26, 2014

Lipinski Stradivarius Theft, Milwaukee: Man sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for participating in robbery (providing convicted felon with Taser used in attack)

Milwaukee Police arrested three suspects Feb. 3 for the theft on Jan. 27 of the $5 million dollar Lipinski Stradivarius violin recovered on Feb. 5 in a suitcase in an attic. At the end of May, Universal Allah, pleaded guilty to participating in the robbery. On July 24, Allah, described as a 36-year-old barber in Milwaukee and the father of two daughters, was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison. Megan Trimble of Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel reported:
In addition to his prison term, Allah will remain under extended supervision for another 3 1/2 years, must avoid contact with the people involved in the attack and pay $4,014.57 in lost wages and ambulance fees to Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond....Allah's attorney and even the prosecutor had recommended only a suspended prison term and probation for three years. The crime's purported mastermind, Salah Salahadyn, 42, had been set to enter a guilty plea Thursday, but it was postponed. Allah, who had no prior criminal record, admitted providing Salahadyn, a felon, with the Taser used in the attack.

January 16, 2014

Document Theft at the Maryland Historical Society: The Thief that Gives Back?

by Kirsten Hower

Normally when something is stolen from a cultural institution, the odds of the objects being returned is minimal, and often nothing is returned.  It is nearly unheard of for the objects to be returned…let alone for additional objects to be brought along in the return.  Oddly enough this is the case with museums in Maryland and New York, and document thieves Barry H. Landau and Jason James Savedoff.

Over the course of eight months, Landau and Savedoff stole ten thousand historical documents from cultural institutions such as the New York Historical Society and the Maryland Historical Society.  One of the documents stolen is a letter from Benjamin Franklin to John Paul Jones, a naval fighter in the American Revolution, dated April 1, 1780 which was stolen from the New York Historical Society.  The thousands of other historical documents included letters and other written pieces by Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. 

It was not until July 2011 that both Landau and Savedoff were caught sneaking documents into specially tailored coats at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, Maryland.  Had it not been for the vigilant observations of one of the Society’s employees, the two men may never have been caught and the extent of their thefts never uncovered.  However, they were caught and subsequently charged for the thefts resulting in a seven year prison sentence for Landau and a one year prison sentence for Savedoff, who was released this past November.


What is particularly interesting about this case was that once the documents were returned, additional documents were discovered.  The “Baltimore Sun” reported that ten percent of the returned documents do not have traceable origins and are therefore homeless for the time being.  After temporarily staying at the National Archives in College Park, the documents were taken to the Maryland Historical Society in August where they will remain until they are claimed by their rightful owners.

News source:
Jessica Anderson, The Baltimore Sun, "Theft case leaves additional documents at Maryland Historical Society," December 31, 2013

November 27, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Theft: Reuters' "Romania hands 6-1/2 year jail term to Dutch art theft boss

Reuters: Eugen Darie (center) and Radu Dogaru (right)
Radu Marinas reports for Reuters in "Romania hands 6-1/2 year jail term to Dutch art theft boss":
A Romanian court sentenced the ringleader of a gang that stole paintings from a Dutch museum in one of the world's biggest art heists to six years and eight months in prison on Tuesday. Radu Dogaru and fellow gang member Eugen Darie, both Romanians, received the same sentence for stealing the masterpieces, including two Monets and a Picasso, in October 2012. The paintings have yet to be found. The trial will continue on Dec 3. for four other defendants including Dogaru's mother, who is also accused of destroying the art and has exercised her right not to comment. Dogaru and Darie pleaded guilty earlier this year to stealing the artworks, insured for 18 million euros ($24.4 million), from Rotterdam's Kunsthal museum.

March 30, 2012

FBI Reports 10 Year Sentence for Former Caretaker of Millionaire for Stealing $3.2 Million and Valuable Artwork

Warhol Heinz 57 box (FBI)
A press release from the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced "Former Caretaker of Millionaire Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to 10 Years in Prison for Stealing $3.2 Million and Valuable Artwork":
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that James Stephen Biear, 51, of Ossining, New York, was sentenced today to 10 years in prison for stealing $3.2 million and artwork, including Andy Warhol's silkscreen on a wooden crate, mimicking a Heinz 57 case of ketchup (the "Warhol Heinz 57 box"), from his former employer, an elderly millionaire. Biear was found guilty on November 22, 2010 of 10 counts of interstate transportation of stolen property, wire, mail, bank, and credit card fraud and money laundering, after a two-week jury trial.  Biear was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court by U. S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel, who also presided over the trial. 
In addition to the prison term, which reflected sentencing enhancements for abusing a position of trust and a vulnerable victim, Judge Castel sentenced Biear to four years of supervised release, imposed a $3.5 million forfeiture judgment, and ordered him to pay a $1,000 special assessment fee.  Restitution will be determined at a later date.
According to the FBI, in July 2008, Biear had sold the Andy Warhol artwork to an art collector in New York City for approximately $220,000.  Biear falsely claimed at the sale that the Warhol Heinz 57 box had been owned by his uncle.  Warhol had gifted the Warhol Heinz 57 box to an art collector in 1964, and in April 2007 the artwork was noticed to be missing from the art collector's residence after a birthday party.

Biear also stole "a playing card on paper by Marcel Duchamp, an ink drawing by Francis Picabia, a watercolor by Joe Brainard, and a charcoal drawing by Alex Katz, according to the FBI.

Biear will face additional charges in Westchester related to another painting and a false insurance claim, Barbara Leonard reports in "Warhol Thief Gets 10 Years for Conning Boss" for Courthouse News:
Biear filed a false insurance claim in August 2009 for a painting by a 19th century English artist that he claimed had been stolen from him, prosecutors say.  After an apparent tip from Biear's ex-wife, authorities ultimately found the piece in Biear's attic.