The FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine are appealing to the public for help in locating two stolen N.C. Wyeth paintings. The paintings are identified as “The Encounter on Freshwater Cliff” and “Go Dutton, and that Right Speedily,” shown below.
The FBI Boston Division opened a criminal investigation in June 2013 after the Portland Maine Police Department requested the FBI’s assistance in investigating the theft of six (all six pictured below) N.C. Wyeth paintings from a Portland, Maine businessman. It is believed to be one of the most significant thefts in the history of the state of Maine.
In November 2014, after a lengthy investigation, the FBI in Portland requested assistance from the FBI in Los Angeles after it obtained information indicating the stolen paintings had been transported to that area. In December, the FBI’s Los Angeles Division recovered four of the paintings (below) at a pawnshop in Beverly Hills. To date, three individuals, Lawrence Estrella, Oscar Leroy Roberts, and Dean Coroniti have been charged in connection with this investigation.
Estrella, 65, of Worcester, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to interstate transportation of stolen property on February 20, 2015. He was sentenced in the United States District Court in Portland, Maine to 92 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. According to court records, Estrella transported four of the six stolen paintings to California in an effort to sell them. Law enforcement officers in California located his vehicle in the parking lot of a hotel in North Hollywood. Estrella’s room at the hotel was searched and a firearm was located, but no paintings were found.
Roberts, 37, of North Hollywood, California, the man who used the stolen paintings to secure a loan from the Beverly Hills pawn shop, pleaded guilty on February 2, 2015 and was sentenced on April 29, 2015 to serve 28 months in federal prison.
Coroniti, 55, also of North Hollywood (and formerly of Boston) also pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property on March 19, 2015. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in October.
The FBI’s investigation is ongoing and information is currently being sought from those who possess or know the whereabouts of the remaining two paintings. The FBI believes the remaining paintings are somewhere in New England.
“The investigation into the theft has been an active and aggressive effort, with law enforcement following leads and tracking down potential sources of information across the country,” said Vincent B. Lisi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston Division. “I’m optimistic that one day soon the paintings will be returned to their rightful owner and we’ll bring those responsible to justice.”
Thomas E. Delahanty, II, the United States Attorney for the District of Maine, said his office is pleased to partner with the FBI to locate the valuable stolen art: “We are anxious to have this unique and irreplaceable artwork recovered and returned to its Maine owner.”
The FBI is offering a reward of up to $20,000 to anyone who can provide information leading to the recovery of the remaining two N.C. Wyeth paintings. Anyone with information should call the FBI at 1-800-CALLFBI (1-800-225-5324). Tips may also be submitted online at https://tips.fbi.gov.
To recover stolen items and prosecute art and cultural property crime, the FBI has a specialized Art Crime Team of 16 special agents supported by special trial attorneys. The team investigates theft, fraud, looting, and trafficking across state and international lines, with estimated losses in the billions. The FBI also runs the National Stolen Art File, a computerized index of stolen art and cultural properties that is used as a reference by law enforcement agencies worldwide.