Robert DiBartolo Charged with Possession of Stolen Cubist Painting

Posted on March 17, 2010

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A different painting by Juan Gris, "Man in Cafe."

The Attorney General’s office in the Southern District of Florida has announced that a man named Robert DiBartolo has been charged in connection with the 2004 theft from a private home of an untitled Juan Gris painting, dated to 1926.  The man is accused of trying to fence the artwork back in November 2009, and contacting an undercover FBI agent in the process.  The Department of Justice press release states that the man is charged with “interstate transportation of stolen artwork,” and since there is no such federal crime, I figured I’d pay the 40 cents for the Complaint.  And since I can, I’m sharing it with you, for free.

DiBartolo has been charged under Title 18, U.S.C. Section 2315, titled “Sale or receipt of stolen goods, securities, moneys, or fraudulent tax stamps,” and the Complaint alleges that he is guilty of possession of stolen goods under that section (there is a possession provision in that section).  But if the U.S. Attorney wanted to charge him with transportation of stolen goods, as the press release indicates, the correct section would have been 2314, which pertains to (ahem) transportation.

Both statutes have the same criminal exposure — ten years imprisonment, so it doesn’t really make a difference if the U.S. Attorney can prove the facts alleged in the Complaint.  I’m only pointing it out because there is a disconnect between the DOJ press release and the U.S. Attorney’s Complaint against DiBartolo.  Here’s the text of the press release so you can get all the details, disconnect or not:

Jeffrey H. Sloman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Field Office, announced Robert C. Dibartolo was charged with the interstate transportation of stolen artwork.

According to the criminal complaint and affidavit, on April 18, 2004, unknown subjects forcibly broke into a home in Saint Louis, Missouri. The unknown subjects stole a valuable painting hanging in the front foyer of the residence. The artwork, a Juan Gris original, untitled, oil on canvas, 1926, is a still life cubist impressionist work valued at approximately $1 million.

According to court documents, on November 8, 2009, the defendant spoke to an undercover agent regarding the potential purchase of the Juan Gris painting that the defendant was attempting to sell. On March 11, 2010, the defendant met with the undercover agent in a hotel in Jupiter, Florida. During the meeting, the defendant produced the original Juan Gris painting, wrapped in a light blue Ryder packing blanket. Upon determination by the undercover agent that the painting was authentic, the defendant was taken into custody. The painting was later identified by its original owner.

If convicted, Dibartolo faces a term of imprisonment of up to 10 years.

Mr. Sloman commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, in this matter. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lothrop Morris.

A complaint is only an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Hat tip LCCHP.

Here is a picture of the recovered painting, which in my opinion is not as pretty as the one I picked out as a visual accompaniment to this post.

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