DA Vance: 'It Was Almost Surreal How This Theft Was Committed'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Authorities have charged a man with ripping off a Salvadore Dali painting from a Manhattan gallery, only to return it in the mail.

Phivos Lampros Istavrioglou, 29, is accused of brazenly swiping the expensive work off the gallery wall and placing it in a shopping bag.

Istavrioglou appeared in court on Tuesday following his arrest on a larceny charge in the theft of the watercolor Surrealist work titled “Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio.”

“It was almost surreal how this theft was committed – a thief is accused of putting a valuable Salvador Dalí drawing into a shopping bag in the middle of the afternoon, in full view of surveillance cameras,” said District Attorney Cyrus Vance. “This brazen heist from a Manhattan gallery is the latest in a string of cases involving theft or fraud in the art world that my Office has prosecuted. Today’s indictment brings us one step closer to bringing an international art caper to a close.”

Prosecutors allege that he walked into the Upper East Side gallery one afternoon last June, put the framed painting in a shopping bag and walked out.

The next day, prosecutors said Istavrioglou flew home to Greece with the painting, valued at $150,000.

They say after security video images of the man were widely circulated, he anonymously mailed the piece back to the United States from Greece.

The NYPD recovered the painting in a cardboard shipping tube at John F. Kennedy International Airport, after it was intercepted en route to Venus Over Manhattan Gallery from Greece, prosecutors said.

Authorities tracked the suspect down using social media. Istavrioglou was lured back to the city by an undercover detective who offered to hire him as an art gallery consultant, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported.

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