One need not perpetrate an Embezzlement or an Extortion to be arrested or charged with a New York Grand Larceny crime. Heck, outright scheming by forging checks is so “yesterday.” If you want to be on the forefront of Grand Larceny offenses, you have to concoct a solid heist. Although he did not get away with it, according to Cyrus Vance’s Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Phivos Istavrioglou was indicted by a New York Grand Jury for his alleged theft of Salvador Dali’s 1949 watercolor, “Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio.” While the $150,000 price tag is certainly lost on me (I assume an expert testified in the Grand Jury that the painting is worth more than a 1978 Bob Ross “Happy Little Trees”), Istavrioglou is facing serious crimes and potentially serious time.
According to reports, Istavrioglou strolled into an Upper East Side art gallery, opened up a shopping bag, removed “Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio” from the wall and dropped it right inside. Despite surveillance cameras set up around the gallery, Istavrioglou strolled right out. There can be little doubt that the gallery has some explaining to do in their complete lapse of security when such valuable and historic pieces of artwork are left vulnerable, but maintaing compromised security is not a crime. Stealing, however, is.
Immediately after the alleged theft, Istavrioglou flew to Greece where he soon learned a manhunt had begun to not only secure the return of the watercolor, but to apprehend the offender. Allegedly claiming that his theft was in fact merely a testing of the gallery’s security, Istavrioglou placed the painting in a cardboard poster tube that previously housed a 1989 Carol Alt swimsuit poster from his basement apartment in his parent’s home, and sent it back to the gallery. While one might believe this was the end of the alleged criminal shenanigans, detectives posed as potential employers and lured Istavrioglou back to the United States with their own clever ruse. Claiming there was a job opportunity and posing as potential employers, detectives convinced Istravrioglou to return to New York where he was promptly arrested for the gallery theft. An investigation into whether or not Istavrioglou paid for the $2 airline headphones during his trip back to the US of A is currently ongoing.
All the fun and kidding aside, if true, Istravrioglou’s conduct is not just serious, but felonious. As a preliminary matter, how is Istravrioglou identified as the art thief? Did he make an admission, identify himself in the surveillance video or are the fingerprints from the watercolor and packaging the strongest evidence? Alternatively, is there a combination of this and other evidence in the hands of prosecutors? If his defense is that he was testing the security (which is also an admission he took the painting), why then was the watercolor brought to Greece? Why was it not immediately returned and when it was, why was it not properly shipped? Equally obvious, what authority did Istravrioglou have to test the security and swipe the painting?
Cases such as a major art theft are ones where prosecutors are likely to be firm in their dealings. From a law enforcement perspective, brazen thefts of property valued beyond dollars cannot be treated with “kid gloves.” Here, even assuming Istravrioglou has no criminal record, a conviction for New York Penal Law 155.40, Second Degree Grand Larceny, is punishable by a sentence of up to fifteen years. There is little doubt that prosecutors will be asking for some prison whether or not it is the maximum permitted by law.
To learn more about New York Grand Larceny crimes and other theft offenses such as Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, Embezzlement, Extortion and Tax Crime, follow the highlighted links or go directly to NewYorkTheftAndLarcenyLawyers.Com (linked below).
Established by two New York criminal defense attorneys who served as Manhattan prosecutors, Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm representing clients in all white collar and larceny crimes throughout the New York City region.