FBI secret agents recover missing Matisse: reports


'Danseuse Dans le Fauteuil, Sol en Damier, 1942' by Henri Matisse is displayed at Sotheby's Auction House on June 5, 2007 in London, England. The painting will be sold at auction along with masterpieces by Gerhard Richter and Francis Bacon.


Bruno Vincent

Disguised as wealthy art collectors, FBI agents in Florida have reportedly recovered a $3 million Matisse painting stolen from a Venezuelan museum over a decade ago, reported ABC News.

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Federal prosecutors said a man and a woman were apprehended in Miami Beach on Tuesday after offering what is believed to be Matisse's "Odalisque in Red Pants" to undercover agents, according to CNN

The find has been a long time in coming. The real 1925 Matisse painting has been sought after by Interpol, the FBI and Venezuelan, British, Spanish, and French police ever since it was stolen from the Sofia Imber Contemporary Art Museum in Caracas in 2000 and replaced with a fake, according to Florida's Local10 news

It was quite the operation, with museum director Rita Salvestrini telling AP at the time that the maneuver suggested "inside complicity."

So the secret agent styling as art collectors must have been delighted when a man named Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman offered the work for $740,000, adding that he knew it had been stolen, according to a Department of Justice press release cited by Reuters.

The offer, of course, ended in arrest, and the FBI on Wednesday charged 46-year-old Guzman and accomplice Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo, 50, with possession of stolen goods, said CNN

The couple, both Mexican nations, will appear in court for a preliminary hearing on Friday. They could face up to ten years in prison.