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January 21, 2023

Saturday, January 21, 2023 - ,,, No comments

Twitter user @ArtFreak, (George S) sentenced in the theft of a Picasso, a Mondrian, and a Guglielmo Caccia

The thief that burgled Greece’s National Gallery-Alexandros Soutsos Museum in Athens eleven years ago has been sentenced.  

Citing that the Court recognised the thief's good behaviour after his arrest for the heist, the Single-Member Court of Criminal Appeals of Athens handed down a six-year suspended probationary sentence with limited electronic monitoring, which will allow Giorgos Sarmantzopoulos, a circulating distance of three kilometres from his residence so that he can hold down a job and care of his elderly and sick parents. Previously, during the trial phase, he had been on complete house arrest.

On 9 January 2012, George S set off the security alarm at the Greek museum by opening a door 6 or 7 times, until the guard believed that the alarm system was malfunctioning and disabled the system. Then, at 4:30 a.m., he entered the museum through an separate unlocked balcony door and swiftly stripped four artworks from their frames, knocking others off the wall in doing so. 

Originally he selected: 

Head of a Woman, 1934 by Pablo Picasso
Stammer Windmill with Summer House, 1905 by Piet Mondrian 
Landscape with a Farm by Piet Mondrian 
St Diego de Alcala in Ecstasy with the Holy Trinity and the Symbols of Passion by Guglielmo Caccia, who was known as il Moncalvo.

But after using a knife to cut the artworks out of their frames, he dropped Landscape with a Farm by Mondrian and left it behind.  He successfully made it out of the museum with the other three artworks in just 7 minutes.   

The case brought widespread attention in Greece due to the high value of the stolen works of art.  The museum estimated the value of the Picasso at 2 million euros, the Mondrian at €200,000 and the Moncalvo drawing at €1,000.  Public outcry at the time of the burglary was so great that the National Gallery-Alexandros Soutsos Museum subsequently closed for an 8-year-long, $70-million (€59 million) revitalisation, which included security and risk management upgrades as well as  doubling the museum’s size.

In July 2021 two of the paintings — Picasso’s Head of a Woman and Mondrian's Stammer Windmill with Summer House— were recovered shortly after George S. AKA Artfreak, was arrested as a suspect.  

Undone by an ex, who had informed private investigator Arthur Brand that her significant other had confessed to the museum theft, George S also purportedly told the woman that at one point the stolen Picasso and Mondrian had been stored behind a brown wall in an apartment in Keratea, a town in East Attica, Greece.  

Arrested and taken into custody, George S. quickly confessed to investigators that he was responsible for the 9 January 2012 theft.

George also went on to lead law enforcement detectives to a deep, narrow gorge in an area near the seaside resort town of Porto Rafti, east of Athens.  There he handed a plastic-wrapped briefcase which held the stolen Mondrian and Picasso inside over to officers.  The third artwork stolen in the heist — the pen-and-ink sketch by Renaissance artist Guglielmo Caccia has not not recovered. 

According to, one of several Greek news sites covering the sentencing, comments attributed to the convicted museum thief relating to this theft were leaked across Greek media, which the suspect’s lawyer, Sakis Kehagioglu, confirmed to be accurate.

George S admitted that "The theft was so simple and stupid that no one could imagine that this would happen from an ordinary citizen. The museum had one guard when he should have had five."  He also claimed that he acted alone and had scoped out the museum and its vulnerabilities for six months prior to committing the actual theft.  He lastly claimed to have no accomplices and to have selected artworks at random with no particular painting in mind.  

But is it as simple as that.  Does a bumbling thief truly spend six months in preparation for a heist?