Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Stolen Art Watch, Moron of the Week, Steven Lee Olson !!

Carlstadt man held in $1M art theft

Thursday, October 25, 2007


The Record North Jersey

Susan Tranquada said she wasn't impressed when her boyfriend showed her an old painting last year that he said he'd found in the basement.

"When you look at it, the faces of the children, they're scary," she said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, federal authorities arrested the heavily tattooed trucker and charged him with stealing the work -- an 18th-century masterpiece painted by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes that had been swiped from a truck on its way to the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan last November.

Steven Lee Olson contacted the FBI last year, telling the agency he found the 1778 oil painting, "Children With a Cart," in the basement of a rented home in Succasunna, Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Kosto told a federal judge in Newark on Wednesday.

Olson contacted his lawyer, who arranged to turn the painting over to the FBI at his Hackensack office.

So Tranquada said she was shocked when agents burst into their Carlstadt apartment late Tuesday as Olson sat eating takeout fried chicken in his underwear.

"[The FBI] said they cleared him six months ago. They said they found nothing on him," Tranquada, a 47-year-old waitress, said Wednesday outside the Hoboken Road home they have rented for two months. "And now they arrest him one year later?"

Without disclosing details, authorities said they slowly and meticulously traced the theft of the painting, leading to an indictment Monday that was unsealed with Olson's arrest.

Olson, 49, was brought into federal court in Newark wearing jeans and a gray "Hog Wild" T-shirt that featured a pig on a motorcycle. U.S. Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz ordered him held without bail pending a hearing next Wednesday. Kosto earlier called him a risk to flee and possibly to threaten potential witnesses.

Olson is charged with a single count of stealing an object of cultural heritage from the custody of the Toledo Museum of Art, a crime that carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

The oil painting was snatched Nov. 8 from an unmarked truck as it was being transported from its home in Ohio to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, where it was to be included in the exhibition "Spanish Painting from El Greco to Picasso: Time, Truth, and History."

Insured by the Toledo museum for more than $1 million, the crated work was in the care of professional art transporters who stopped overnight at a Howard Johnson Inn off Route 80 in Bartonsville, Pa., about nine miles west of the Delaware Water Gap.

When they got up the next morning, they told investigators, they found that the lock on the back of the truck had been broken and the painting was gone.

Within two weeks, amid extensive media coverage, the painting was mysteriously recovered undamaged. The FBI provided no details of the recovery but acknowledged that its success was due in part to tips investigators received after posting a $50,000 reward.

Tranquada said she, Olson and their 5-year-old daughter were renting the Morris County house last year from a close friend. The day the painting was stolen, they had attended a birthday party for their friend's son, 27-year-old Roman Szurko, she said.

Tranquada said she didn't recall Olson slipping out that night, although FBI agents say they have records of him making a 10-minute call to her at 12:45 a.m. on Nov. 9. She told The Record she didn't remember that call.

Two days later, she said, Olson told her he'd been rooting around their basement when he discovered the painting. He proposed hanging it in their apartment, but she refused, citing the subjects' faces.

"I wouldn't put this on my wall," she said.

Some days later, while in the Union City office of Olson's employer, Hart Transport, Tranquada spotted a story in a New York City tabloid about the art theft.

She and Olson debated what to do.

"I literally wanted him to leave it on the side of the road and to call the cops," she said. But Olson told her he couldn't do that.

"He was in shock. We didn't care about the reward. We just wanted the thing gone and off our hands."

They took the painting to Olson's longtime lawyer, Warren Sutnick of Hackensack, who insisted on calling the FBI, Tranquada said. Agents came over and interviewed the couple separately at the lawyer's office, she recalled.

Sutnick could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Over the ensuing months, she said, they stayed in touch with the FBI, and were eventually told that the investigation was over.

Then Tuesday night, a quartet of FBI agents took him away, Tranquada said.

"They said, 'You must've known we were coming.' "

N.J. Man Arrested in Goya Painting Theft

By CHRIS NEWMARKER – 3 hours ago

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A truck driver who stole an art masterpiece from an unattended transport truck, then claimed he found it in his basement was charged with theft, authorities said.

Steven Lee Olson, 49, was charged with stealing "Children with a Cart," a 1778 painting by famed Spanish artist Francisco de Goya, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. The painting was insured at a value of about $1 million.

In an initial appearance in federal court in Newark on Wednesday, Olson through his lawyer decided not to immediately contest his detainment. A bail hearing was scheduled for Oct. 31.

The federal public defender representing Olson didn't immediately return a phone message. A message left at a number listed for Olson also wasn't immediately returned.

The painting was being trucked to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City from Ohio's Toledo Museum of Art last November. It was stolen as the transport drivers spent the night at a Pennsylvania motel. They discovered it missing the next morning.

Within days, Olson contacted federal authorities through an attorney to say he found the painting in his basement, said U.S Attorney's office spokesman Michael Drewniak.

After a lengthy investigation, authorities determined that Olson, a self-employed truck driver, had lifted the piece himself, Drewniak said.

"It was a crime of opportunity that didn't pay," FBI agent Sandra Carroll said.

Olson was arrested without incident at his home in Carlstadt on Tuesday. He is charged with theft of an object of cultural heritage from a museum, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The painting was returned undamaged to the Toledo museum. In February, the museum allowed the painting to be included for a few weeks in the Guggenheim exhibit.

Goya painted "Children with a Cart" in 1778 as a model for a tapestry planned for the bedroom of a Spanish prince. The group of four children includes one boy blowing a horn and another with his back to the viewer.

Art Hostage comments:

Thankfully, this moron Olson has a brain the size of a Walnut.

First, to try and offer the painting back so soon was a fatal mistake because it shows recent possession.

Elizabeth Gibson waited years before she attempted to return the stolen Tamayo Mexican artwork, see story below:

She seems to have cracked it by being awarded $15,000 and a percentage of the sale price.

It appears she has stood up to public scrutiny, and maybe Law Enforcement scrutiny, so she collects her reward.

However, Elizabeth Gibson could find there is a sting in the tail, if Law Enforcement has its way, remember Olson was left hanging for a year, a sting in the tail could still be on the cards, more likely than not, they are working on it !!!!!!!

To really overcome any Public and Law Enforcement scrutiny when returning stolen art, the person should be able to command respect and be of a position whereby any suspicion would be counter-productive.

Second, "I found it in my basement" not as good as "I found it in a dumpster, years ago"

Criminals cannot hide behind a lawyer anymore because of legislation that obliges Lawyers to inform on their clients if they are party to information about possible wrong-doing, therefore any lawyer taking possession of, or control of stolen art is liable to prosecution, as we see in the Da Vinci case.

The moral of this story is:

"Art Theft, Forget about it"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you think you need to post your rediculous opinions for everyone to see...but, last time I checked...a person is innocent until proven guilty...So...who's the moron if Mr. Olson ends up being found innocent? Read the articles...he was not a sole resident of the home that the painting was found in...he happened to find it...whoopidie-do...Glad to be the first to comment on your stupid blog...must just mean nobody else wastes their precious time reading it.
You have a wonderful day ;)