LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A treasure trove of art that had been stolen from Los Angeles-area homes in the 1990s has been found, and LAPD investigators need help returning them to their rightful owners.
Operation Demetra started in June after a reputable auction house called the LAPD to report they had come across art they believed to be stolen. Investigators determined the art – most of which were paintings, but also included some sculptures, clocks, furniture and antique guns – had been stolen in a series of burglaries in the 1990s. The recovered pieces includes two Picassos, a Joan Miró, and a picture and letter signed by President Ronald Reagan when he was governor of California.
Two people, Armenian nationals, were arrested with the help of Interpol for those burglaries. However, the stolen art was never recovered – until this year.
LAPD Lt. Mel Vergara said he and investigators who had originally worked the 90s burglaries followed a trail from the auction house to the provider of the stolen property and served search warrants on locations in Orange and Los Angeles counties. Police recovered 100 items, some of which were verified to have been stolen during those 90s burglaries.
No new arrests have been made in the case. Investigators say the person who was in possession of the art inherited it from someone who had died. Police confirmed that person had been convicted and served several years in prison for the burglaries.
Police say the paintings were not stored properly and have suffered some damage over the years. At least one of the paintings, the piece that caught the eye of the auction house dealer, was worth $60,000 at the time it was stolen. Investigators are working with experts from the unidentified auction house and the Getty Museum to identify the pieces, the artists who created them, and their current market value.
Click here to view images of the art.