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Greek man charged in theft of Salvador Dali painting

By Dominique Debucquoy-Dodley, CNN
February 21, 2013 -- Updated 2057 GMT (0457 HKT)
Italy's Culture Ministry unveils two paintings by the French artists Paul Gauguin and Pierre Bonnard on Tuesday, April 2. The paintings, <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/02/world/europe/italy-paintings-recovered/index.html'>worth millions of euros</a>, were stolen from a family house in London in 1970, abandoned on a train and then later sold at a lost-property auction, where a factory worker paid 45,000 Italian lire for them -- roughly equivalent to 22 euros ($30). Italy's Culture Ministry unveils two paintings by the French artists Paul Gauguin and Pierre Bonnard on Tuesday, April 2. The paintings, worth millions of euros, were stolen from a family house in London in 1970, abandoned on a train and then later sold at a lost-property auction, where a factory worker paid 45,000 Italian lire for them -- roughly equivalent to 22 euros ($30).
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A Greek national is charged with grand larceny in the theft from a Manhattan gallery
  • Man took "Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio" off the wall, put it in a bag and left, prosecutor says
  • The painting, valued at $150,000 was anonymously returned by mail, officials say

New York (CNN) -- Exactly eight months after the "brazen" theft of a Salvador Dali painting from a Manhattan art gallery, a Greek national was indicted Tuesday on a grand larceny charge, according to the New York County District Attorney's Office.

Phivos Istavrioglou, 29, is accused of stealing the 1949 Dali watercolor "Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio" on June 19 from the Venus Over Manhattan gallery.

Istavrioglou is charged with one count of second-degree grand larceny and is scheduled to appear in court next Tuesday. He is being held on $100,000 bail, according to David Cohen, Istavrioglou's attorney.

Istavrioglou was detained by Homeland Security agents on Saturday and arrested by the New York police after flying from Milan, Italy, to New York's Kennedy International Airport, according to a district attorney's office media release.

An undercover detective posing as an art gallery business manager had invited Istavrioglou to New York, proposing to hire the defendant as an art gallery consultant, according to the district attorney's office.

In June, Istavrioglou allegedly posed as a potential gallery customer, lifted the painting off a wall, placed it in a shopping bag and left the gallery, according to the district attorney's office statement.

Surveillance video showed a suspect walking out of the gallery with a shopping bag, the district attorney's office statement said.

"Today's indictment brings us one step closer to bringing an international art caper to a close," New York County District Attorney Cy Vance said in the statement.

The painting was sent back to the United States anonymously and was recovered at Kennedy International Airport customs on June 28. It was intercepted in a cardboard shipping tube en route to the same gallery. The painting was then returned to the gallery. The painting is valued at approximately $150,000.

Cohen says his client is not facing mandatory jail time and that he plans on challenging his client's high bail.

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