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Man Accused of Stealing Salvador Dali Painting, Returning It By Mail

Inept thief stole painting with cameras rolling


An art thief in New York City reportedly tried to return a stolen piece anonymously — and failed.

Phivos Istavrioglou allegedly stole the Salvador Dali painting “Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio” from a gallery in Manhattan, reports the Associated Press. Prosecutors say he stole it by taking the watercolor off the wall and placing it in shopping bag in full view of cameras and other patrons.

When Istavrioglou learned that he’d been videotaped taking the $150,000 painting, he allegedly took the painting from its frame, rolled it up and placed it in a paper mailing tube, then mailed it back to the gallery without a return address.

However, police say he left a fingerprint on the package. Court papers say the fingerprint matched a bottle of juice that Istavrioglou shoplifted in 2012 from a grocery store, which allowed investigators to know his name and that he had left the country. According to the AP, a prosecutor, posing as a gallery owner, offered him a consulting position, and he was subsequently arrested at JFK Airport by federal agents upon his return to America.

Istavioglou pleaded not guilty to the charge. Bail was set at $100,000.

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