House painter indicted on charges of stealing artwork

A house painter who prosecutors in Nassau and

A house painter who prosecutors in Nassau and Brooklyn said helped himself to three of his client's high-end artworks and sold at least one for his own profit was indicted on money laundering, identity theft and grand larceny charges, officials said. (Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy)

A house painter who prosecutors in Nassau and Brooklyn said helped himself to three of his client's high-end artworks and sold at least one for his own profit was indicted on money laundering, identity theft and grand larceny charges, officials said Tuesday.

Joselito Vega, 42, of Easton, Pa., is accused of swiping three paintings in March 2011 from the Schulhof Estate in Kings Point while he was working for Zimmer Painting, said Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice and Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.

"The defendant tried to launder the proceeds from the stolen art in Brooklyn," Hynes said in a news release. "It obviously raises a red flag when you are selling a $50,000 painting for less than $10,000."


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Rice said: "The Schulhof Estate spent decades gathering and protecting hundreds of pieces of artwork, yet where others saw incredible beauty in these paintings, Joselito Vega only saw the opportunity to make a quick buck."

Vega's attorney could not be reached.

A year after the painting job, prosecutors said, an inventory check found three items missing: "Le Fauteuil II" (The Armchair II) by French artist Jean Dubuffet, estimated to be worth about $50,000; "Tuftonboro" by Frank Stella and "Flower" by Norman Lewis.

Brooklyn detectives set up a sting operation at the estate April 29, asking Vega to do another job. They said they have video of him trying to steal three more works: a $10,000 Pablo Picasso etching, "Three Graces II," a Jean Dubuffet work called "Chien" and a Yaacov Agam work called "Presence de Rythmes."

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