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Missing Matisse thieves sentenced in Miami

23 january 2013, 14:16
0
An empty spot where a painting by French artist Henri Matisse was stolen. ©AFP
An empty spot where a painting by French artist Henri Matisse was stolen. ©AFP
A US federal court handed down prison terms Tuesday to an American man and a Mexican woman for trying to sell a $3 million Henri Matisse painting stolen from a Venezuelan museum, AFP reports.

Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman, a 46-year-old resident of Miami, was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison, while 50-year-old Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo of Mexico City got one year and nine months.

The pair had initially denied in court that they conspired to transport and sell "Odalisque in Red Pants" but then changed their story, and pleaded guilty in October.

Venezuelan authorities realized in 2003 that the painting hanging at the Museum of Contemporary Art in the capital Caracas was actually a fake. The exact date of the theft is unknown, though December 2002 has been suggested.

The indictment accused Marcuello of negotiating the sale of the Matisse for approximately $740,000 during several meetings with undercover FBI agents. The painting has been valued by experts at $3 million.

Marcuello also agreed to have the painting transported by a courier -- identified as Ornelas -- to the United States from Mexico, where it was stored. In July, Ornelas brought the piece to Miami from Mexico City.

Undercover FBI agents posing as buyers recovered the Matisse in August in Miami and arrested the two suspects.

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