Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stolen Art Watch,Textbook FBI Sting, A Fitting Curtain Call to Robert Wittman's FBI Career !!

French art thief gets 62 months in prison

A French art thief who lived quietly in a Cooper City neighborhood and admitted stealing and trying to sell valuable Claude Monet and other paintings will serve more than five years in U.S. prison.

A federal judge in Miami imposed a 62-month sentence Wednesday on 56-year-old Bernard Jean Ternus. He pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to steal paintings by Monet, fellow Impressionist George Sisley and 17th-century master Jan Brueghel the Elder.

Ternus has multiple convictions for felonies in France, but he lied about them on his visa application when he flew into Miami on July 5, 2007.

One month later, on Aug. 5, five armed, masked thieves stormed the MuseƩ des Beaux-Arts in Nice, France. In minutes, the thieves made off with four paintings valued at more than $6 million in front of shocked museum staff.

The stolen paintings were Cliffs Near Dieppe by Monet, The Lane of Poplars at Moret by Sisley and Allegory of Water and Allegory of Earth, both by Brueghel.

With the paintings in hand, the thieves needed a buyer. That's where Ternus came in. According to court documents, Ternus' role was to set the thieves up with wealthy buyers. He was not involved in the actual heist, prosecutors said.

Ternus approached two undercover FBI agents on Oct. 8, 2007, and told them that he could sell them the paintings. They met with him again repeatedly over the next few weeks, in hotel suites and on yachts in Europe and South Florida.

Court documents reveal that the thieves were getting anxious to be paid. '[Ternus'] associates are calling him all the time, asking if he has a buyer yet for the Nice paintings.'' They agreed on a $100,000 fee to pay for Ternus' team's expenses, like flights and house rentals.

Ternus also told the agents that he could sell kilos of cocaine in France, Italy and Spain. The plea deal doesn't say whether the agents negotiated any drug deals with Ternus, who was not charged with any drug-related offenses.

In January 2008, the agents and Ternus flew to Barcelona to meet with the thieves and agreed on a price: $3 million euros, roughly $4.7 million.

The money would be turned over to Ternus in Miami, and the paintings given to the agent's ''representatives'' in France.

But there was a problem. The skittish art thieves only agreed to sell the two Brueghels at first, holding onto the Monet and the Sisley as leverage in case anyone was arrested after the sale.

They told the undercover agents that they would hold the canvases hostage and threaten to rip them up if the police arrested anyone.

It took several more months of trans-Atlantic negotiation and meetings to get the thieves to agree to sell all four paintings in a single deal. The agents agreed to exchange both the money and the artwork in France.

On April 18, 2008, two FBI agents, two of the thieves and Ternus all met on a boat docked in Broward County to hammer out the final details of the sale. When the meeting ended, the criminals and the undercover agents hoisted glasses and they ``all toasted for good luck, `` according to court documents.

But Ternus' 10 months of planning collapsed on June 4, 2008, the date of the sale. Instead of collecting almost $5 million, Ternus was arrested at his Cooper City home.

Art Hostage comments:

As Bob Wittman was the architect of this recovery he should get the credit.
A fitting case to ride off into the Sunset with, straight to the private sector gravy train, much deserved in Bob's case.

Still find it hard to believe people, who show cunning and intelligence when stealing high value art, are so stupid and really think the so-called buyer of stolen high value art is not an Undercover cop.

Anyone with access to high value stolen art who is then approached by someone promising cash for the stolen art has only themselves to blame when the fairy godmother turns out to be an Undercover cop.

This was not an attempt to hand back the stolen art for reward, it was a pure and simple criminal transaction that turned out to be an FBI Sting.

Art theft, forget about it !!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

S/A Whittman will be sorely missed, but his legacy will hopefully be carried on.