Inept Art Thieves Botch Houston Heist

Policemen recover the stolen painting. Photo via

According to the Houston Chronicle, two men attempted to steal a painting valued at $18,000 from a local restaurant, but made a few missteps along the way, including grossly underestimating the size of the work. According to police, at about 12:45 a.m on June 27, the thieves told a security guard at Houston’s Chase Tower that they worked in the building and needed to get something from their offices. They used this as an opportunity to grab a painting from the wall outside a restaurant and attempt to exit the premises using an underground tunnel system.

Their first mistake was not realizing they were on camera. As soon as the security guards realized what was happening, they notified local officials. But the guards got a real laugh as they watched the men struggle and ultimately fail to fit the 6-foot-by-6-foot painting through a doorway. The robbers then ran away, leaving the massive work abandoned in the stairwell—all of which is captured on video. The two men, identified as Austin Brown, 24, and Juan Noriega, 25, were taken into custody moments later.

The painting is by Joan Steinman, a local artist who is represented by Gremillion & Co. Fine Art. Gallery president Harwood Taylor found the news of the attempted theft both funny and flattering. He pointed out that the thieves could not have sold the piece to a gallery or at auction after it was reported missing, and thus believes the thieves to be “genuine art lovers.”

“The thieves were at least romantics—they must have appreciated good art and wanted something good for themselves,” he said. “That was what warmed my heart about it. They were maybe clumsy, fool-hearted thieves, but they had genuine art-loving hearts.”

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