FBI Sting Operation Recover Stolen $3 Million “Odalisque in Red Paints”

By DiMarkco Chandler:

In an FBI sting operation a $3 million stolen Henry Matisse Painting was recovered at the Miami Beach hotel. The crooks, Pedro Antonio Marcuello and Maria Martha Ornelas are in international hot water.

In 2000 the 1925 Matisse gem, “Odalisque in Red Paints” was surreptitiously stolen from the Venezuela State Museum in Caracas. It was exchanged for a fake, which went unnoticed for months, until the Contemporary Art Museum of Caracas was contacted by a Miami gallery owner saying that someone had offered to sell him the painting depicting a young topless woman.

This set of a chain of events that sent expert to inspect the painting, only to learn that what they had on display was a very poor replica of the original portrait. Sources close to the investigation say, the take down happened just before sundown Tuesday, July 17. That’s when inside the hotel we’re told a man and a women tried to sell the piece for $1.5 million to people they thought art buyers. Art buyers they were not. The alleged crooks were selling to undercover agents. The undercover agents arrested the two alleged thieves. Once Ms. Ornelas was in police custody she told authorities that the painting had been stolen by museum employees but never gave details about how she obtained it only to suffice to say that the artwork had been in her possession for years.

“Odalisque in Red Paints” is now in good condition and now in the hands of law enforcement.

Ms. Ornelas had flown in on Monday, July 16 from Mexico; it’s unclear if she had any involvement in the initial heist.

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