FBI Offers $20,000 Reward for Stolen N.C. Wyeth Paintings With Reality TV Spin
An aspiring rapper and reality television star is among those convicted in the case.
The two works were among six Wyeth canvases stolen two years ago from the Portland home of Maine real estate developer Joe Soley. Four of the paintings were recovered this past year at California’s Dina Collection pawn shop, where the Reelz reality show Beverly Hills Pawn is filmed.
“We’re still continuing to look for the other two and we have reason to believe they are here in New England, possibly in the greater Boston area,” special agent Vincent Lisi, who leads the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Boston, said during a press conference held yesterday in Boston.
“We are anxious to have this unique and irreplaceable artwork recovered and returned to its Maine owner,” added Thomas E. Delahanty II, US Attorney for the District of Maine, in a statement, as reported by the Associated Press.
Court documents indicate that the recovered paintings are worth a collective $1 million, but Soley told the Portland Press Herald last month that he believes the value could be as much as $50 million. Soley was neighbors with Wyeth, and knew the painter and his family, including his more famous son, Andrew, personally. According to the artnet Price Database, Wyeth’s record at auction is $2.2 million for a 1916 oil painting Wild Bill Hickok at Cards, which sold at Coeur d’Alene Art Auction in 2007. Seven of his works have sold for above $1 million.
This past November, Texas state troopers pulled over Larry Estrella, 65, for speeding, and noticed several wrapped-up paintings in the car. FBI agents began following Estrella, and tracked him to California, where he met with associates Dean Coroniti, 55, and Oscar Roberts, 37.
Roberts, an aspiring rapper who had been cast in a reality television pilot about a hip hop label, had sold the four works for $100,000 to Beverly Hills Pawn star Yossi Dina. When he learned of the painting’s illicit origins, Dina, who has not been charged in connection with the case, tipped off the police.
“I was suspicious with the art,” Dina told Los Angeles reporters, according to the Boston Globe. “Something look not so clean, and fishy.”
Estrella, Coroniti, and Roberts have since been respectively convicted of transporting stolen goods, possession of stolen goods, and pledging stolen property to secure a loan. It is unclear if they played any role in the theft itself.
Coroniti will be sentenced in October, and Estrella and Roberts have been respectively sentenced to 92 months and 28 months behind bars.
“I had these [paintings] most of my life and saved up for many, many years,” Soley told the court during Estrella’s July sentencing, as reported by the Bangor Daily News. “I was just fantastically disturbed to find someone would break in and take them.”
At Tuesday’s press conference, the FBI displayed two of the recovered works, At a Touch from Michael’s Knife and The Unwrit Dogma, and characterized the May 2013 heist as the most significant art theft in Maine history. The Duel and John Brimblecombe were also found in California.
“I’m optimistic that one day soon the paintings will be returned to their rightful owner, and we’ll bring those responsible to justice,” added Lisi.
Parties with inside knowledge on the robbery or the paintings’ current whereabouts are being asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI.
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