News and Press Releases

Miami Resident and Mexican National Plead Guilty to Charges Relating to Attempted Sale of Stolen Henri Matisse Painting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 31, 2012

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announced that Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman, 46, of Miami, Florida, and Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo, 50, of Mexico City, Mexico, pled guilty yesterday to charges relating to the July 17, 2012 attempted sale of the stolen Henri Matisse painting, “Odalisque in Red Pants,” in Miami Beach, Florida.

More specifically, Marcuello pled guilty to conspiracy to transport and sell stolen property, interstate transportation of stolen property, and possession of stolen property, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 371, 2314 and 2315. Ornelas pled guilty to conspiracy to transport and sell stolen property, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Sentencing is scheduled for January 22, 2013 before U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks. At sentencing, Marcuello faces a statutory maximum sentence of ten years in prison. Ornelas faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison.

According to court documents, between December 2011 and July 13, 2012, Marcuello, in a series of meetings with undercover agents of the FBI, negotiated the sale of an original Henri Matisse painting entitled “Odalisque in Red Pants,” which had been stolen from the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas, Venezuela in or around December 2002. During these meetings, Marcuello agreed to sell the stolen painting to the undercover agents for approximately $740,000.00 U.S. dollars, and also agreed to have the painting transported to the United States from Mexico, where the painting was stored, by courier, whom Marcuello identified as Ornelas. On July 16, 2012, consistent with the discussions to date, Ornelas transported the stolen Matisse painting to Miami from Mexico City. According to court documents, the following day both Marcuello and Ornelas produced the Matisse painting titled “Odalisque in Red Pants” to undercover agents as part of the purported sales transaction. At the time of the purported sales transaction, both Marcuello and Ornelas knew the Matisse painting had been stolen.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. Mr. Ferrer would also like to thank the FBI Legal Attaché in Caracas and Paris, the FBI’s Art Crime Team, the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs, and the Department of Justice Attaché in Paris. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elisa Castrolugo.

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A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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