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December 29, 08

NEWS / RETIRED MASSACHUSETTS ATTORNEY SENTENCED FOR POSSESSING STOLEN ART


BOSTON, MA—Late yesterday, a retired Massachusetts attorney was sentenced following a jury conviction on August 18, 2008, for possession of stolen goods, in a case arising from the theft of seven pieces of art from a Stockbridge home in 1978—the largest burglary from a private residence in Massachusetts history.

United States Attorney Michael J. Sullivan and Warren T. Bamford, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation - Boston Field Division, announced that ROBERT R. MARDIROSIAN, 72, of 9 Highwood Lane, Falmouth, Massachusetts, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf to 7 years imprisonment, followed by 3 years of supervised release and a $100,000 fine, for possession of goods that had crossed a United States boundary that he knew to have been stolen.

The evidence at trial showed that, on Memorial Day weekend in 1978, seven pieces of valuable artwork, including the Cezanne painting, Bouilloire et Fruits, were stolen from a home in Stockbridge. MARDIROSIAN, now retired, practiced law for years in Massachusetts prior to his retirement. He had secretly held the stolen paintings since shortly after the 1978 theft, when the alleged thief, David Colvin, whom MARDIROSIAN represented in another case, left them with him. Colvin was shot and killed in 1979.

MARDIROSIAN maintained possession of the stolen artwork in Massachusetts until 1988, when he moved the paintings out of the United States and eventually to a Swiss bank for safekeeping. MARDIROSIAN sought to profit from the stolen paintings by, among other things, demanding a finder’s fee of $1 million. MARDIROSIAN was able to keep his possession of the paintings secret by working through lawyers and others in London and Switzerland, as well as a Panamanian shell company he created just for the paintings, Erie International Trading Co. (Erie).

MARDIROSIAN attempted to move the stolen paintings to London for sale. However, an investigation by the Art Loss Register (ALR) determined that the artwork was stolen. ALR is a London-based company that maintains a comprehensive database of stolen artwork. Auction houses, such as Sotheby’s, retain ALR’s services when performing due diligence on artwork to be auctioned.

ALR alerted the rightful owner that his stolen paintings had surfaced and ultimately, on October 15, 1999, brokered an “agreement” between the owner and Erie—M ARDIROSIAN’s Panamanian shell corporation—whereby Erie handed over the most valuable painting, the Cezanne, in exchange for the owner’s relinquishing all claims to the remaining six pieces of artwork. At the time, the remaining six paintings were valued at approximately $1 million. Two months later in December, the owner auctioned the Cezanne through Sotheby’s in London for $29.3 million.

MARDIROSIAN later sought to sell the remaining six stolen paintings in 2003. MARDIROSIAN arranged to have the paintings brought to a Swiss bank for valuation and authentication by Sotheby’s. In April 2005, MARDIROSIAN arranged for four of the six paintings to be sent to Sotheby’s for transport from Geneva to Sotheby’s in London—after which the owner filed a lawsuit seeking to void the 1999 “agreement” with Erie.

The four paintings, Portrait d’une Jeune Fille and Portrait d’un Jeune Homme by Chaim Soutine, Maison Rouge by Maurice Utrillo, and Flowers by Maurice de Vlaminck were eventually returned to the rightful owner. The remaining two stolen paintings, Woman Seated and Boy by Jean Jansen have also been recovered.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the Art Loss Registry. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathan F. Mitchell and Ryan M. DiSantis of Sullivan’s Economic Crimes Unit.
http://boston.fbi.gov/dojpressrel/pressrel08/stolenart121608.htm

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