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Man arrested in scheme to sell stolen Gardner Museum artworks

May 23 (UPI) — A West Virginia man was charged with fraud in connection to an attempt to sell paintings stolen from a Boston art museum, the Justice Department said.

Todd Andrew Desper, known as “Mordokwan,” never had access to any of the 13 paintings stolen in 1990 from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, but allegedly offered two of them for sale on Craigslist. He “directed interested buyers to create an encrypted email account to communicate with him. Authorities were notified of the foreign Craigslist notices by individuals seeking to assist in the recovery of the artwork, as well as those seeking the $5 million reward offered by the museum,” a Justice Department statement said Monday.

Desper, arrested Monday in Beckley, W. Va., was charged in Boston federal court with wire fraud and attempted wire fraud. He was attempting to sell a Rembrandt painting, Storm on the Sea of Galilee, as well as The Concert by Vermeer.

The two artworks were among 13 taken from the museum by two men, disguised as police officers, who subdued security guards before taking an estimated $500 million in art. The Justice Department statement referred to the theft as “the largest art theft in history.”

Desper potentially faces 20 year in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted. He is scheduled to appear in Boston federal court on June 9.

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