Buy now? Rembrandt on Craigslist!

23 May 2017

You can buy anything on Craigslist. But Rembrandt’s “Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee?”  And Vermeer’s “The Concert?” Both stolen in one of the best-known art thefts ever? Not so much.

U.S. law enforcement authorities said a West Virginia man tried to sell the two paintings on Craigslist for $55 million, even though he didn’t have them.

The two paintings were among 13 stolen in 1990 from the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum in Boston. The Vermeer painting alone was valued at more than $200 million, but it was offered online for $50 million. The Rembrandt was offered for $5 million. A prospective buyer was told to pay by cashier’s check, and the seller would mail the paintings a few weeks later.

Authorities said Todd Andrew Desper, 47, of Beckley, W. Va., listed the stolen paintings on Craigslist and asked interested potential buyers to use encrypted email to communicate with him with the alias Mordokwan.

“While the FBI had significant doubts that Mordokwan possessed or had access to The Storm or The Concert, given the means he was using to offer them for sale, the importance of these artworks, and this longstanding investigation we decided to thoroughly pursue this lead,” FBI agent Geoffrey Kelly wrote in an affidavit quoted by the Boston Globe.

Desper was charged with wire fraud and attempted wire fraud.

Sadly, there’s no federal law against stupidity. Or he might have faced additional charges.

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