Man Claims Mistress Ran Off With $15 Million in Erotic Art

Christie's and Sotheby's had a stake in the curious collection.

It was an unusual case for Lantana Police. Courtesy of Lantana Police Department.

Police in Lantana, FL, a town in Palm Beach County, solved a bizarre love triangle art heist in which over 200 works were stolen, valued at over $15 million.

New York collector Nicholas Zoullas kept the art stashed in the home he bought for his mistress. After an argument, Zoullas claims that she took the artworks and disappeared.

Zoullas, who is 80, accused Stacy Cliett, 43, and her new boyfriend, Todd Stephens, 52, of running off with his collection. According to NBC affiliate WTHR, matters got complicated when it emerged that auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s, who had a stake in the collection, piled pressure on the small town cops to find the missing art. The artwork included work by Luciano Castelli, among other artists.

“It was overwhelming,” Eddie Tavcar, a Lantana police officer involved in the investigation recalled. “An ex-girlfriend, flashy cars—a couple of Bentleys, two Ferraris.”

Sylvestre Verger poses on June 6, 2013 in Paris in front of Swiss painter Luciano Castelli's work "La Liberte enchainee" made in 1990. Courtesy of MATTHIEU RATER/AFP/Getty Images.

Sylvestre Verger poses in front of Swiss painter Luciano Castelli’s work “La Liberte enchainee” made in 1990. Courtesy of MATTHIEU RATER/AFP/Getty Images.

Investigators approached Cliett in an attempt to cut a deal. She maintains that she moved the art “to preserve it because of a mold problem” in the home, according to WPTV West Palm Beach, and “refused to provide details” to the police.

Tavcar and his colleagues shadowed the couple for several days. Eventually, the officers followed them to a warehouse near Lake Worth.

“We got there in the nick of time because if that U-HAUL full of that artwork would have gone, we probably never would have found it,” Tavcar explained.

When police catalogued the art, there was another surprise, according to WTHR; the collection featured several graphic, erotic artworks. “There was a mannequin of a nude woman. It was very life-like, it was made with human hair,” the stunned cop recalls.

Cliett and Stephens face charges of grand theft, and are awaiting trial.


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