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Crime & Litigation



Attorney details plundered artwork's journey to Okla.

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Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 11:02

'Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep,' Camille Pissaro, oil on canvas, 1886. Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Paintings.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A woman adopted as a child by a French couple after World War II is the rightful heir to a painting by artist Camille Pissarro, stolen from her family by the Nazis, which now resides at the University of Oklahoma, her attorney told an Oklahoma House panel on Monday.

Attorney Pierre Ciric presented members of the Oklahoma House Committee on Government Modernization with an account of Leone Meyer's claim to the painting and how it was plundered by Nazi forces from a bank in southern France during the German occupation during World War II.

Ciric also testified that both Meyer and her father, Raoul Meyer, attempted to recover the painting, the 1886 oil painting Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep by Pissarro.

Oklahoma oil tycoon Aaron Weitzenhoffer and his wife, Clara, purchased the painting from a New York gallery in 1956. When Clara Weitzenhoffer died in 2000, the painting was among more than 30 works valued at about $50 million that she donated to the university.

Meyer's family learned in 2012 the painting was on display at OU's Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Ciric said, and the family sued in federal court in New York in 2013. The University of Oklahoma has filed a motion to dismiss on several grounds, including improper jurisdiction and statute of limitations, and the case is ongoing.

Rep. Mike Reynolds, the chairman of the House panel, has been a vocal critic of the university for not returning the painting.

“Why is a piece of art that everyone agrees was stolen in 1941 any less stolen today?” said Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City. “I actually consider this an embarrassment to the state of Oklahoma.”

University officials have maintained that the full history of the painting's ownership is not known, and that simply transferring the piece without knowing all the facts would set a bad precedent.

University spokeswoman Catherine Bishop said Monday that OU officials are seeking “cooperative dialogue” with Meyer and her attorneys.

“The university has engaged in good faith with the plaintiff to seek a mutually agreeable resolution and has offered to meet with the plaintiff and her representatives in Paris,” Bishop said in a statement. “Our goal is to seek a fair and reasonable resolution to plaintiff's modern-day claim or, if the plaintiff prefers, to continue with the legal process and abide by the results.”

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-12-14 2242GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE

'Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep,' Camille Pissaro, oil on canvas, 1886. Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Paintings. 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 May 2014 11:08
 

Cameras installed to monitor Father Marquette statue

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Written by Associated Press   
Monday, 12 May 2014 08:40

Statue of Father Jacques Marquette in Marquette, Mich. Image by Einar Einarsson Kvaran. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. MARQUETTE, Mich. (AP) – Officials have installed security cameras in hopes of preventing further vandalism of the Father Marquette statue in the Upper Peninsula city.

The Mining Journal of Marquette reported Saturday that two cameras have been placed on the Lake Superior Community Partnership building along Front Street. The cameras cost $2,000.

The statue has been at its current site for about a century. It first was erected in Marquette in 1897.

Someone put red paint on the statue in November 2012. After several months of restoration, green paint was found on it last June.

Father Jacques Marquette was a Jesuit explorer. He served as a missionary in the region and was believed to have camped near modern day Marquette while mapping Lake Superior in 1669.

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Information from: The Mining Journal, http://www.miningjournal.net

Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-10-14 1940GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE

Statue of Father Jacques Marquette in Marquette, Mich. Image by Einar Einarsson Kvaran. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Last Updated on Monday, 12 May 2014 08:52
 

Report: Disbarred attorney who stole $9M bought pricey Batman comic

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Written by Associated Press   
Thursday, 08 May 2014 09:27
Cover of 'Detective Comics' No. 27 (May 1939), in which Batman makes his first comic-book appearance. Art by Bob Kane. Source: The Grand Comics Database via Wikipedia. All DC Comics characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 1939 DC Comics, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. It is believed that the use of low-resolution images of the cover of a comic book to illustrate the issue of the comic book in question qualifies as fair use under the terms of US Copyright Law. Note: This image does not depict the comic book that was purchased by Anthony Chiofalo. HOUSTON (AP) - A disbarred attorney who authorities say stole $9 million from his employer has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

The Houston Chronicle reports Anthony Chiofalo bought valuable collectibles, including a first-edition Batman comic book worth $900,000, with the money he embezzled. He was sentenced Monday.

Authorities say Chiofalo took the money while working in Houston for Tadano America Corp., a subsidiary of a Japanese company that manufactures large cranes.

He had been a New York attorney but was disbarred. Prosecutors say Chiofalo set up dummy law firms as part of his scheme.

Lonnie Blevins, an ex-investigator with the Harris County District Attorney's Office, which prosecuted Chiofalo, was later arrested, accused of selling some of the comic books seized in the case. Blevins' case is pending in federal court.

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Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com

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Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 May 2014 09:51
 

Prosecutors seek prison for NYC art dealer, gambler Nahmad

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Written by TOM HAY, Associated Press   
Friday, 02 May 2014 13:26
Photo by Diacritica, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. NEW YORK (AP) - A tabloid photo of a wealthy Manhattan art scion cheering at a New York Knicks game has come into play in his sentencing in an illegal gambling case.

The photo, published in the New York Post last year shortly after the arrest of Hillel "Helly'' Nahmad, shows him wearing a cap with a playing card on it and sitting courtside next to his high-powered defense attorney, Benjamin Brafman. Spike Lee is a seat away.

The scene suggests that Nahmad was "making light of the seriousness of the gambling charges,'' prosecutors wrote in submissions in advance of Nahmad's sentencing Wednesday afternoon in federal court in Manhattan. They are seeking a minimum of a year behind bars for Nahmad.

In its papers, the defense conceded that Nahmad was an "inveterate gambler'' who began betting on the Knicks -- and mostly losing -- at age 14. But the papers sought to portray him as a minor player in the gambling scheme, and as an otherwise law-abiding and widely respected art dealer who deserves only probation instead of prison time.

Nahmad, 35, pleaded guilty late last year to charges he helped run an illegal sports betting business that was exposed by an investigation of a sprawling scheme by Russian-American organized crime enterprises. He was among more than 30 people named in indictments alleging a plot to launder at least $100 million in illegal gambling proceeds through hundreds of bank accounts and shell companies in Cyprus and the United States.

The gambling ring catered mostly to super-rich bettors in Russia. But it also had tentacles in New York City, where it ran illegal card games that attracted professional athletes, film stars and business executives, prosecutors said. Some of the defendants are professional poker players.

Nahmad comes from an art-dealing clan whose collection includes 300 Picassos worth $900 million, according to Forbes. He also is known for socializing with Hollywood luminaries like Leonardo DiCaprio.

Prosecutors had alleged that, along with laundering tens of millions of dollars, Nahmad committed fraud by trying to sell a piece of art for $300,000 that was worth at least $50,000 less. He was required to turn over the painting to the government as part of a $6.4 million judgment.

So far, 28 people have pleaded guilty.

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Follow Hays on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APtomhays

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Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
Photo by Diacritica, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Last Updated on Friday, 02 May 2014 13:40
 

Man pleads guilty in theft of museum statue in Missouri

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Written by Associated Press   
Friday, 02 May 2014 11:28
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) - An Independence man has pleaded guilty for his role in the theft of a 6-foot bronze statue from a museum.

Thirty-seven-year-old Jeremy Ratliff will be sentenced June 13 after pleading guilty this month to felony stealing. He was one of three men charged in the June 2013 theft of the Pioneer Woman statue from the National Frontier Trails Museum.

One of the men has been sentenced to seven years in prison and the other has not yet pleaded.

The life-sized statue of a woman with a baby in one arm and a bucket in the other weighed 1,000 pounds.

The Independence Examiner reports Ratliff and another defendant tried to sell the bronze from the statue at a Kansas City recycling center but workers there refused to take it.

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Information from: The Examiner, http://www.examiner.net

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Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Last Updated on Friday, 02 May 2014 13:24
 
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