Police have solved a months-long mystery surrounding a $150,000 Salvador Dalí drawing stolen from an Upper East Side gallery last June.
Cameras caught a man take the drawing, "Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio," stuff it in a bag and walk out of the Madison Avenue gallery past security guards at the Venus Over Manhattan gallery on June 19. A few days later, the artwork was found at John F. Kennedy airport after the thief apparently mailed it back.
Phivos Istavrioglou, 29, who lives in Milan, was arrested on Saturday, according to the Manhattan district attorney's office. He pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to one count of grand larceny.
Police had information and fingerprints on Istavrioglou from when he stole food from a Lower Manhattan Whole Foods last January, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
An undercover cop then lured Istavrioglou back to the U.S. by posing as an art gallery manager. He was arrested at JFK airport on Saturday.
“It was almost surreal how this theft was committed – a thief is accused of putting a valuable Salvador Dalí drawing into a shopping bag in the middle of the afternoon, in full view of surveillance cameras,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said.
Alison Bowen contributed reporting.