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Nine works of art that were stolen six years ago in one of the largest art heists in L.A. history have been recovered by investigators from the Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI, according to court documents obtained by The Times.

After an undercover operation at a West Los Angeles hotel in October, federal authorities detained Raul Espinoza, 45, who tried to sell the paintings -- which are valued at $10 million -- for $700,000 cash.

The nine works recovered were among the dozen stolen from an Encino home on the morning of Aug. 24, 2008.

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Philippine authorities recovered on Tuesday more than a dozen paintings, including a work by Pablo Picasso, from an office and residences of lawmaker Imelda Marcos, a day after an anti-corruption court ordered their seizure.

The court ordered the family of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos surrender eight paintings by famous European artists, declaring they had been illegally acquired with public funds.

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A very valuable painting signed “Rembrandt” was recovered together with other stolen works, which disappeared on the night of December 13, 1979 from Castello Cini Monselice. At the time, the monumental building was owned by the Giorgio Cini Foundation (founded by Count Vittorio Cini in 1951, as a private non-profit organization) which in 1981 became the property of the Veneto Region. The canvas has been recovered by the police offices for the protection of cultural heritage in Venice, coordinated by the deputy prosecutor Federica Baccaglini of Padua. The lead came from an investigation related to International Rogatory Commission in France.

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A painting by Henri Matisse stolen more than a decade ago in Caracas and later recovered in an FBI sting is on display again in the Venezuelan capital.

The "Odalisque in Red Pants," worth around $3 million, was exhibited Tuesday for the first time in more than a decade at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

It had been replaced with a fake sometime between 1999 and 2002 and it was only in 2003 that Venezuelan authorities realized the original had been stolen.

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A painting by Henri Matisse that was stolen more than a decade ago in Caracas and later recovered in an FBI sting was turned over Monday to Venezuelan authorities.

The "Odalisque in Red Pants" disappeared from the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Caracas after being replaced with a fake sometime between 1999 and 2002.

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Wednesday, 02 April 2014 16:07

Gauguin and Bonnard Paintings Recovered in Italy

On Wednesday, April 2, Italy’s Culture Ministry unveiled two paintings that were recovered by police specializing in locating stolen art. The works, which are by the French artists Paul Gauguin and Pierre Bonnard, had been hanging in an Italian factory worker’s kitchen for nearly 40 years. He was unaware of the spectacular value of the works in his possession.

The two paintings were stolen from a London home in 1970 and then abandoned on a train traveling from Paris to Turin. The works were stored in an Italian Railways lost and found facility until they were offered at a lost-property auction in 1975. A Fiat factory worker with a passion for art purchased the paintings for roughly $30. A friend of the factory worker alerted Italian heritage police last summer when he grew suspicious of the paintings’ value.

Gauguin’s “Fruits sur une Table ou Nature au Petit Chien” is estimated to be worth between 10 million and 30 million euros. The Bonnard painting, titled “Le Femme aux Deux Fauteuils,” is said to be worth around 650,000 euros. The investigation into how the paintings ended up in the Fiat worker’s kitchen are still ongoing. It is unclear who the works will be returned to since the original owners have passed away. 

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Thursday, 13 March 2014 15:18

Missing Norman Rockwell Painting Found in Ohio

A painting by Norman Rockwell that has been missing since October 2013 was recovered in Ohio by a private investigator. ‘Sport,’ which appeared on the cover of the “Saturday Evening Post” in 1939, was sold to an unidentified buyer in May for more than $1 million at Sotheby’s in New York. Before the disappearance, the painting was being kept in a storage warehouse in Queens. When it was found, the painting was still in the wrapping used previously for storage and appeared to be undamaged.

WelPak Corporation, the art moving and storage company that was responsible for transporting and storing the painting after its sale, released the following statement: “WelPak Corporation is pleased to report the successful recovery of the Norman Rockwell painting, ‘Sport’ reported missing from its facility in October 2013 through the diligence and hard work of its private investigator, Dean Golemis, of Global Security and Investigative Services in conjunction with the investigation undertaken by the NYPD.”

The oil on canvas painting features a fisherman clad in a yellow raincoat in a boat smoking an upside-down pipe. No one has been charged in the painting’s disappearance.  

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Pedro Luis Enriquez who goes by the nickname “El Loco” or “the Madman” has pleaded guilty to stealing $15 million worth of jewelry and watches from Provident Jewelry in Jupiter, Florida.

Investigators believe that three people were involved in the heist that took place on January 22, 2011 although Enriquez, 41, was the only suspect who has been apprehended. The thieves used a jackhammer-style tool and a high-pressure cutting torch to open a vault surrounded by 10 inches of reinforced concrete. Inside the vault, police found an open bottle of wine and a small flashlight, which contained DNA matching Enriquez’s.

Miami-Dade County Police have recovered 170 of the 1,6000 pieces of jewelry, loose stones and watches that were stolen; four arrests have been made in connection to the trafficking of the stolen goods.

Investigators received their first break in the case three weeks after the robbery when one of the stolen loose stones turned up at the Gemological Institute of America in New York. Police tracked the stone to a pawnshop in Miami and were able to recover another 100 stones.

Enriquez, who will serve 15 years in prison, has not volunteered any information about the heist or his accomplices.

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Wednesday, 17 April 2013 18:32

Stolen Faberge Egg Found Near Swiss Border

French traffic police found a stolen Faberge egg worth $1.3 million while conducting a routine car search near the Swiss border. The egg, which is made of more than two pounds of pure gold, is covered in diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds. The work of art has been missing for four years.

The Faberge egg was stolen in 2009 from a Kuwaiti import-export firm based in Geneva but the work’s whereabouts were never determined. The officers, who recovered the egg from a suspicious looking BMW, immediately placed the two Belarusian men in the car under arrest. Another man who was driving behind the suspects was also arrested. When questioned by the police, the suspects claimed conflicting stories; one alleged that they had found the Faberge egg on the ground and another maintained that they had bought it for a low price at a flea market.

Officials believe that the three suspects were given the task of transporting and negotiating the sale of the artwork. They are currently in police custody and have been charged with handling stolen goods and possessing a weapon.

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Wednesday, 13 March 2013 13:25

Stolen Rembrandt Masterpiece Found in Serbia

Serbian police recovered Rembrandt’s (1606-1669) Portrait of a Father on Tuesday, March 12, 2013, seven years a after it was stolen from the Novi Sad City Museum located in the northern city of Novi Sad. Police arrested four people in connection to the 2006 heist that involved three other paintings including a work by the Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), a 17th century piece by the Italian Baroque painter Francesco Mola (1612-1666), and another painting from the 16th century by an unknown German-Dutch artist.

Rembrandt, one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history, painted Portrait of Father in 1630 and it is estimated to be worth around $3.7 million. The painting was stolen 10 years prior to the 2006 robbery, but it was eventually recovered in Spain.

None of the other works involved in the Serbian heist have been found.

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