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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Waterford police follow trail of $1M painting to Europe

$1 million Stolen Painting Traced to Europe !!

Associated Press

Published November 9 2006

WATERFORD, Conn. -- A handyman has been arrested in the theft of a $1 million painting that sent Waterford police on a European odyssey to retrieve it.

Charles R. McDougal Jr., 44, of Niantic, is charged with first-degree larceny and is scheduled to appear Nov. 30 in New London Superior Court. Police have called it the largest larceny investigation in the history of department, one that included help from the FBI, an international stolen arts registry and authorities in the Netherlands

The small painting of chrysanthemums, an Henri Fatin-Latour original from the 1800s called "Bouquet D'Hiver", was taken from the shed of a Waterford man for whom McDougal had been doing electrical work. Police have not identified the owner.

Bernadina Blais, an Old Saybrook antiques dealer, said McDougal was selling the painting and other items out of his trunk last year. She bought the lot for $100. Her lawyer, John Bennett, said she had no idea the painting was so valuable. After she hung it in her shop, a savvy customer spotted it and suggested she have appraised.

The appraisal came back at $150,000. Blais then sent it to an auction in Greenwich in May and it sold for $1 million to a buyer in the Netherlands. A Waterford detective brought it back late last month.

Blais' attorney said the money the antique dealer made off the painting will be returned to the buyer. She also is suing McDougal for damages.

Police said McDougal likely didn't know how valuable the painting was either. He allegedly told authorities he took the painting so he could make a little cash.

The auctioneers, Shannon's Fine Art Auctioneers in Milford, ran a check of the painting before they sold it to make sure it wasn't stolen. But the original owner, who was out of the country at the time, did not notice it missing from his shed until September, months after the auction.

Waterford detectives didn't have a name of the painting, only a photo provided by the original owner, to go on.

"He liked to do flowers, so I looked at a lot of flower paintings," Detective John Davis said.

After some extensive Internet sleuthing, Waterford police not only spotted the missing painting but learned it set a Shannon's record for the highest-selling item.

Next stop for Waterford police was the Netherlands.

The buyer had the painting on an easel in a massive room that included other multi-million-dollar pieces of art.

"We had to sit and have coffee, and we had to chit-chat. There was no rush," Davis said.

The buyer freely relinquished the painting, Davis said. The fact that the painting had been stolen was enough reason for him to have it returned.

"It is not about the money on that level," he said. "It is about the respect and concern for the art. The fact that this painting is so important in the art world was enough."

Information from: The Day,

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