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Seen any sentimental oil paintings of medieval knights hanging around lately? You might want to let the Federal Bureau of Investigation know. The agency has offered up a $20,000 reward for help in recovering two oil paintings by American painter N.C. Wyeth, the father of Andrew Wyeth. They were stolen two years ago from the home of a collector in Maine, along with four other paintings by the elder Wyeth that have since been found.
“The investigation into the theft has been an active and aggressive effort, with law enforcement following leads and tracking down potential sources of information across the country,” said Vincent B. Lisi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston Division. “I’m optimistic that one day soon the paintings will be returned to their rightful owner and we’ll bring those responsible to justice.”
It might be too much to hope that their recovery will be any bit as amusing as that of the other four. According to NBC, 65-year-old Lawrence Estrella was speeding down a Texas highway last November when he was stopped by a state trooper, who noticed the paintings in the back of his green Mercedes. Agents from the FBI followed him to California and a North Hollywood hotel. There they found Estrella’s partners, 55-year-old Dean Coroniti and 37-year-old Oscar Roberts, an aspiring rapper and cast member on a reality TV show about hip hop.
When police questioned Roberts, he lied and said he didn’t know where the paintings were. In fact, he’d recently traded them for $100,000 at the Beverly Hills Pawnshop. It was itself the subject of a reality TV show on the cable channel Reelz, and the paintings’ owner dutifully alerted the police. Each Wyeth painting has an estimated worth of $1–2 million.
In February, Estrella was sentenced to seven years in prison and Coronitz to 28 months, while Roberts will learn his fate in October. But it’s still unclear what happened to the other two paintings, and judging from the unlikely journey of the others, it seems like they could be absolutely anywhere. David Bowdich, assistant director at the FBI’s Los Angeles office, told skyNEWS they could take decades to find.
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