MIAMI -- Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman, 46, a Cuban living in Miami, Florida, and Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo, 50, of Mexico City, Mexico, were indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Florida on charges of conspiracy, interstate transportation of stolen property, and possession of stolen property, according to Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Jeffrey C. Mazanec, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office. Marcuello and Ornelas appeared for arraignment on August 1, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Andrea M. Simonton and both pled not guilty.
The indictment alleges that Marcuello and Ornelas conspired to transport and sell an original Henri Matisse painting, “Odalisque in Red Pants,” which was reported stolen from a Caracas, Venezuela museum. The indictment further alleges that Marcuello negotiated the sale of the Matisse painting for approximately $740,000.00 over the course of several meetings with undercover agents. According to court documents, as part of the negotiations, Marcuello agreed to have the painting transported to the United States from Mexico, where the painting was stored. The indictment alleges that Ornelas transported the Matisse painting to Miami from Mexico City. The indictment further alleges that both Marcuello and Ornelas produced the Matisse painting titled “Odalisque in Red Pants” to undercover agents as part of the purported sales transaction.
If convicted, the defendants each face a possible maximum statutory sentence of ten years in prison.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, this case was the result of an FBI undercover investigation. According to the allegations in the complaint affidavit, Marcuello negotiated the sale of the Matisse painting, which had been previously stolen from the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art [Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Caracas (MACCSI)] in Caracas, Venezuela, in December 2002. The painting is valued at approximately $3 million. Marcuello allegedly admitted to the undercover agents during a meeting that he knew the painting was stolen and offered to sell the stolen painting for approximately $740,000. As part of the negotiations, Marcuello agreed to have the painting transported by courier to the United States from Mexico, where the painting was being stored. The courier was subsequently identified as co-defendant Ornelas.
According to the affidavit, on July 16, 2012, Ornelas arrived at the Miami International Airport from Mexico City, Mexico, hand-carrying a red tube containing the painting. On July 17, 2012, defendants Marcuello and Ornelas met with undercover agents and produced the Matisse painting titled “Odalisque in Red Pants” from inside the red tube. Upon inspection by the undercover agents, the painting appeared consistent with the original Henri Matisse painting reported stolen from the MACCSI museum. At the conclusion of the meeting, Marcuello and Ornelas were arrested.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elisa Castrolugo.
An indictment is only an accusation and every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.Federal Grand Jury Indictment