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Brooklyn prosecutors charge painter with art heist

A house painter allegedly lifted works of art.

(Credit: Brooklyn D.A.) (Credit: Brooklyn D.A.)

Following a sting dubbed Operation to Catch a Thief, Kings County attorneys Monday indicted a Brooklyn man accused of stealing valuable works of art.

Prosecutors say Joselito Vega, 42, stole the paintings from a house he was hired to work on as a painter in March 2011. He was assigned through his employer to the Schulhof Estate in Kings Point, a well-known repository of fine arts.

About a year later, when the Schulhof Estate performed an inventory, three paintings had gone missing: “Le Fauteuil II (the Armchair II)” by Jean DuBuffet, valued at $50,000, “Tuftonboro” by Frank Stella and "Flower" by Norman Lewis.

Vega allegedly sold the DuBuffet painting through an Oakland gallery, to a buyer in Monaco, using the name of his ex-sister-in-law. He then cashed the check in her name, after having her open a new bank account.

In May 2012, investigators set up a sting operation at the Schulhof Estate with hidden cameras. Vega was hired again to work on the house. This time, prosecutors say he was caught on tape stealing three more artworks: a Pablo Picasso etching, “Three Graces II,” a “Presence de Rythmes” by Yaacov Agam and another Jean Dubuffet work called “Chien.”

He faces multiple charges of grand larceny and identity theft, for which he can serve as many as 26 years in prison if convicted.

 
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