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Painter Gets 1 Year in Art Theft

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

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A house painter facing 25 years behind bars for stealing six works of art has pleaded guilty and will be released with time served, according to reports.

In April 2013, Joselito Vega, 42, of Easton, PA, was arrested and charged with stealing more than $100,000 in artwork from a mansion in Kings Point, NY.

Photos: Kings County District Attorney

Joselito Vega, 42, of Easton, PA, will be freed after spending a year and a half behind bars facing charges in a stolen art case.

One of the painter’s two heists had been caught on videotape.

Prosecutors said the painter took six paintings in total, including a Pablo Picasso etching, from the Schulhof Estate. The estate houses a well-known private art collection of post-war and contemporary European and American art—more than 300 pieces in all, worth millions of dollars, according to prosecutors.

Vega used the identity of an ex-relative without her knowledge to sell the stolen artwork.

He faced five charges, including identity theft, grand larceny and money laundering, in the Kings County case.

Plea Deal Accepted

On Thursday (Nov. 6), the day Vega’s trial was to begin, he pleaded guilty and the judge sentenced him to one year for each count, to run concurrently, according to local reports.

The plea deal will free Vega, who has been in jail for a year and a half awaiting trial.

Vega was also charged with seven counts, including grand larceny, in Nassau County, where the alleged thefts occurred. However, the Nassau County District Attorney has agreed to the same deal the house painter received in Brooklyn, according to the New York Post, citing Vega’s defense attorney Tim Parlatore.

At a press conference, prosecutors describe the sting operation set up to catch Vega.

“We were very confident in our ability to win this case at trial, but with the guarantee that he would be home with his family within a week, it’s a deal that you can’t pass up,” Parlatore told the news bureau.

The New York Post reported that Vega’s partner had given birth while he was detained.

The First Heist

Three pieces of artwork went missing in March 2011 after Vega, a former employee of Zimmer Painting Inc., was hired to do some painting at the mansion, according to authorities. An inventory at the estate identified the missing pieces and spurred the investigation a year later.

Investigators discovered that one of the missing paintings, Jean DuBuffet’s Armchair II, worth $50,000, had been put up for auction in Oakland, CA. The painting sold for $8,500 in September 2011. The other two paintings, which are still missing, are Tuftonboro by Frank Stella and Flower by Norman Lewis. 

In selling the DuBuffet painting to a buyer in Monaco, Vega allegedly used the identity of his ex-sister-in-law without her knowledge. 

Throughout interactions between Vega and an Oakland art gallery, Vega used his ex-relative’s name and had the check for the sale made payable to her and sent to a private mailbox that belonged to Vega under the alias “Danny Vega,” according to prosecutors.

Further, Vega was said to have asked his ex-sister-in-law to set up a bank account in her name so that she could cash the check for him, using the excuse that he received Social Security benefits and did not want to lose the benefits if the state found out that he received that sum of money.  

Art Theft on Video

Prosecutors then decided to set up a sting operation to see if Vega might continue his scheme.

On April 29, 2013, he was once again hired to complete a paint job at the estate in Kings Point.


Video footage released by prosecutors shows Vega looking through a box full of art and taking three pieces, including a Picasso.

A box full of art was strategically placed in the home, and hidden cameras were set up. 

Vega was caught on the video going through the box of art, taking three works: a $10,000 Pablo Picasso etching, Three Graces II; another Dubuffet piece called Chien; and a Yaacov Agam work called Presence de Rythmes

After he made his selections and took them to his vehicle, he was picked up by authorities.

The video footage was shown to reporters at a news conference May 6.

At the time of the arrest, his attorney said the prosecutors had “unfairly laid a trap” for the painter who “did not know much about art.”


Tagged categories: Criminal acts; Ethics; Laws and litigation; Painters

Comment from Scott Kuperman, (11/11/2014, 11:33 AM)

This is why you should background check your prospective employees! I'll bet that wasn't done in this case. The residential painting industry is a joke.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (11/12/2014, 11:12 AM)

Ok...so he pleads guilty to stealing the 6 works of art, but 2 are still missing. I'd say he should only get the deal if he coughs up the missing two pieces. If he can fence the other two for a good price when he gets out, then he gets a good salary for the year and a half in jail.

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