LOS ANGELES Jan 4 Prosecutors announced on
Friday a major break in the investigation of an art heist from
the Southern California home of financier Jeffrey Gundlach,
charging six people with burglary and other offenses stemming
from the caper.
The six, including two arrested in September when the 13
stolen artworks were recovered, pleaded not guilty in Los
Angeles Superior Court to charges of burglary, conspiracy,
receiving stolen property and being an accessory after the fact.
The paintings, along with pricey watches, bottles of fine
wine and Gundlach's red Porsche sports car were taken from his
Santa Monica home while the superstar bond-fund manager and CEO
of DoubleLine Capital was away in New York.
The overall value of the stolen property was put at $3.2
million. But the bulk of the massive heist consisted of rare,
one-of-a-kind works by contemporary painter Jasper Johns, who
won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, the late Dutch
abstract artist Piet Mondrian and several other artists.
Gundlach had offered a rewards of up to $1.7 million for
information leading to he safe return of his art, which also
included pieces by Frank Stella, Franz Kline, Guy Rose, Philip
Guston and Hanson Duvall Puthuff.
The suspected burglar, Darren Agee Merager, 43, is accused
of breaking into the Gundlach residence between Sept. 12 and
Sept. 13 to steal the art collection, jewelry and wine, then
returning hours later to make off with the Porsche.
Most of the partings were recovered about two weeks later
from an automobile stereo shop in the Los Angeles suburb of
Pasadena. The store's manager, Jeffrey Nieto, 45, is accused of
helping conceal the stolen art and other items.
Merager's 68-year-old mother, Brenda Joyce, and two younger
brothers, Wanis George Wahba, 29, and Ely George Wahba, 26, were
charged as co-conspirators. Another man, Wilmer Bolosan Cadiz,
40, was charged with conspiracy and receiving stolen property.
Cadiz and Nieto originally were arrested as suspects in the
break-in and theft, but police said then that the case remained
under investigation and they were unsure who had committed the
Merager, who already was in custody in an unrelated case and
has a history of felony convictions, faces more than nine years
in state prison if convicted in the Gundlach heist, the Los
Angeles District Attorney's Office said.
Gundlach made headlines on Wall Street in 2011 when he
emerged victorious in a court battle with TCW Group Inc., the
asset management firm that had fired him December 2009.