2 sentenced in stolen Matisse painting case

Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman, Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo sentenced

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The original painting on the left, and the forgery on the right

MIAMI - Two people were sentenced Tuesday for transporting and attempting to sell a stolen Henri Matisse painting in Miami Beach, the Department of Justice announced.

Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman, 46, of Miami, Florida, and Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo, 50, of Mexico City, Mexico pled guilty on Oct. 30, 2012 to attempting to sell "Odalisque in Red Pants" by Matisse.

At the hearing Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks sentenced Marcuello to 33 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Ornelas was sentenced to 21 months in prison, to be followed by three years supervised release.

According to court documents, between December 2011 and July 13, 2012, Marcuello, in a series of meetings with undercover FBI agents, negotiated the sale of an the original painting, which had been stolen from the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas, Venezuela, about Dec. 2002. 

During the meetings, Marcuello agreed to sell the stolen painting to the undercover agents for about $740,000, and also agreed to have the painting transported by courier to the United States from Mexico, where the painting was stored, investigators said. 

The courier was identified by Marcuello as co-defendant Ornelas. On July 16, 2012, agents said Ornelas transported the stolen Matisse painting to Miami from Mexico City. 

According to court documents, the following day, both Marcuello and Ornelas produced the Matisse painting to undercover agents as part of the sales transaction. At the time, both Marcuello and Ornelas knew the Matisse painting had been stolen, agents said.

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