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Jasper Johns' assistant pleads guilty to stealing art work

A Connecticut man who worked as an assistant to modernist painter Jasper Johns pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan on Wednesday to stealing and selling 22 of the artist's works for his own benefit.

James Meyer, 52, of Salisbury, Conn., faces up to 10 years in jail in the scam, in which gallery owners allegedly sold the stolen paintings for $6.5 million and Meyer got $3.5 million.

From 2006 to 2012, the former aide at Johns' studio in Sharon, Conn., secretly took the artwork from a drawer in which Johns stored pieces he had not yet completed and did not want to put on the art market.

Meyer, who had worked for Johns for more than 25 years, allegedly told gallery owners and buyers that Johns had given the artworks to him, but insisted that they be kept private and not exhibited for at least eight years after the sale.

Meyer pleaded guilty to interstate transportation of stolen property. Federal sentencing guidelines call for him to get 37 to 46 months in prison at his sentencing before U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken on Dec. 10.

"James Meyer made millions by stealing and selling the valuable artworks that he was entrusted with maintaining," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. "With his guilty plea today, Meyer will have to pay for that decision."