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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.