Saturday, April 16, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Hamptons Art Heists Solved !!

Suspect Arraigned For East End Art Thefts

A Medford man was indicted and more than 40 works of art totaling about $600,000 have been recovered in connection with a recent rash of art thefts throughout the East End.

The investigation is ongoing, however, as the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office and multiple East End police departments search for accomplices and additional missing art.

The D.A.’s office, along with detectives from various police agencies, have been investigating the theft of nearly 40 paintings, lithographs and other valuables from homes on Shelter Island, in Southold and in the villages of East Hampton and Southampton.

Angel Giovanni Palencia, 24, was arraigned on a grand jury indictment Friday morning in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead where he pleaded not guilty to six counts of burglary in the second degree and one count of grand larceny in the second degree, both felonies that have a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Mr. Palencia was arrested on Thursday, April 6, by Southold Town Police after a North Fork art dealer alerted officers that the man had tried to sell him stolen artwork, District Attorney Thomas A. Spota said during a press conference Friday morning in the D.A.’s office in Riverhead, where some of the stolen art was displayed.

Mr. Palencia first contacted the dealer—who requested that authorities not release his name—in December, telling him he had acquired several works of art in return for cleaning someone’s basement, but the dealer declined to purchase anything, Mr. Spota said. In January, Mr. Palencia contacted the dealer again with an offer to sell a $4,000 oil painting of a seated woman—which had been stolen from a Southold home—and said he had a companion painting of a man, but the dealer again declined to make a purchase, Mr. Spota said.

On April 5, Mr. Palencia reached out to the dealer a third time, offering to sell him five paintings, Mr. Spota said, including a $35,000 painting of a woman knitting in a garden that had been stolen from an East Hampton Village home. The dealer learned the paintings had been reported stolen when he contacted an appraiser, the district attorney said. The dealer then contacted Southold Police. Detectives had the dealer record a conversation with Mr. Palencia and invite him to the dealer’s business, where the arrest was made.

Mr. Spota said the defendant has been cooperative with police, but has insisted that he acted alone in the burglaries.

“Quite frankly, our detectives are a little too sophisticated for that,” Mr. Spota said, adding that the authorities believe there are accomplices. He said other individuals have been interviewed, but he stopped short of saying there would be further arrests.

Mr. Palencia is accused of burglarizing two Southampton Village homes—one on Captains Neck Lane and one at the corner of Gin Lane and First Neck Lane—one on Lily Pond Lane in East Hampton Village, two Shelter Island homes—both on Rocky Point Road—and one Southold home on Soundview Avenue—all in January and February.

Mr. Palencia admitted he had some familiarity with some of the burglarized homes, Mr. Spota said. He did carpentry work on a home police said he burglarized in Southold, and on Shelter Island, he was employed by a painting contractor who had done work on one of the homes and knew there was a spare key in a particular outside location, Mr. Spota said. Mr. Palencia told the authorities he picked the East Hampton Village home at random after glimpsing valuables through a window, the district attorney said.

There were no signs of a forced entry at any of the homes, which were all unoccupied.

Works have been recovered at Mr. Palencia’s home, as well as at art businesses in Westbury and Mineola, where some had been purchased.

“I don’t believe he has the sophistication he thought he had,” Mr. Spota, said, noting that Mr. Palencia grabbed some items, but left untouched other pieces that were more nearby and more valuable.

Mr. Palencia is being held at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Mr. Spota praised the “outstanding police work” by Southampton Village Police, East Hampton Village Police, Southold Town Police and Shelter Island Town Police, as well as Suffolk County Police detectives and D.A. investigators.

Some of the recovered pieces have not been associated with any of the known burglaries, leading the authorities to believe that more homeowners may discover missing art from their homes in the future.

“We suspect that once folks who live elsewhere return to their summer homes out in the Hamptons or out in Southold, the North Fork or South Fork, they are going to probably discover that their homes have been burglarized and items of art have been taken,” Mr. Spota said.

Mystery North Fork art dealer helped crack theft case

Who is he? Who is the mystery man who investigators say played a critical role in breaking the case of the theft of more than $500,000 in artwork and other valuables from unoccupied East End homes during the winter?

He’s a North Fork art dealer, said District Attorney Tom Spota, who declined to give the man’s name. Mr. Spota said the art dealer was contacted three times by Angel Giovanni Palencia, 24, of Medford, trying to sell the stolen art. Mr. Palencia was indicted Friday on felony burglary and grand larceny charges connected to a string of art thefts in Southold, Shelter Island, Southampton and East Hampton. He is being held on $500,000 bail.

The North Fork dealer grew suspicious, and after he learned through a fellow dealer that some of the art was reported stolen in East Hampton, he contacted the Southold Town Police.

Southold Police arrested Mr. Palencia on April 6 after recording a conversation between him and the art dealer, the district attorney said during a Friday morning press conference at the County Criminal Court Building in Riverside.

Mr. Palencia is alleged to have taken a painting and a silver tea set from a house on Soundview Avenue in Southold, and a painting and a stamp collection from a Rocky Point Road residence on Shelter Island.

Flanked by samples of the stolen art recovered by investigators and joined by area law enforcement officers, the DA said Mr. Palencia had admitted to the thefts, but said he was working on his own.

But police think otherwise.

“Nobody believes that this defendant was working by himself,” said Mr. Spota. “He certainly wasn’t running around to houses in East Hampton and looking in windows.”

Police said there’s no evidence of forced entry at any of the burglarized homes and the property owners said the windows were locked and the alarms set.

Mr. Spota stopped short of describing the crimes as part of an organized art theft ring. He did say, “The police are looking at a number of individuals they believe may have participated.”

Mr. Palencia is accused of taking 30 works of art and other valuables worth between $550,000 and $600,000 during January and February.

The defendant is no stranger to the East End, the DA added. He’s worked as a carpenter on Shelter Island and for a painting contractor on the North Fork. While working on Shelter Island, he had knowledge of an extra house key kept outside which “he found to be very handy,” said the DA

Southold police said Mr. Palencia, an undocumented worker, was arrested on a DWI charge in Southold several years ago.

Investigators said some of the stolen artwork is still missing, but they’ve also recovered pieces that have not been reported stolen. Southold Police Chief Ty Cochran said the owners are most likely second-home owners unaware of the thefts.

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