FORMER SEATTLE ART DEALER ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH ART THEFT CONSPIRACY
Former Gallery Owner Allegedly Worked with Burglar to Target and Steal Expensive Art
A lengthy undercover investigation by the FBI culminated this morning in the arrests of two men and one woman charged with conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate commerce. KURT LIDTKE, the former owner of Kurt Lidtke Galleries in Seattle, was arrested in Bozeman, Montana. JERRY H. CHRISTY a/k/a Nick Natti, and GEORGIA CHRISTY a/k/a Monica Natti, both of Granite Falls, Washington, were arrested at their home this morning and will make an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 2:30 this afternoon.
According to the criminal complaint, LIDTKE and the CHRISTYs conspired to steal valuable artwork from homes in the Seattle area, and sell it to a buyer in Oregon. The buyer was an undercover agent with the FBI. During the course of the investigation, the FBI conducted surveillance of the defendants and of possible targets. Earlier this month, the FBI had Seattle Police Officers contact CHRISTY while he was parked in a van outside a targeted home. CHRISTY provided false identification documents in the name “Nick Natti” to the police officers. He was not detained, but agents chose to make arrests today to head off any additional burglaries. In the course of the investigation, the FBI recovered numerous paintings and a sculpture that had been stolen in a Seattle burglary in November 2009. Paintings recovered in the course of the investigation include two by northwest artist Morris Graves, one by Mark Tobey, and a Rembrandt etching. Some of the recovered art was stolen as early as 2004.
LIDTKE will appear in federal court in Montana today. The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This investigation was provided assistance by the FBI’s Art Crime Team, which was formed in response to the looting of Iraqi antiquities following the Iraq War and comprises a cadre of Special Agents and Special Trial Attorneys with knowledge and experience in art and cultural-property investigations.
The case is being investigated by the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Andrew Friedman.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.