Pair Charged With Trying to Sell Stolen Matisse Plead Not Guilty

Marcuello Guzman and Maria Lazo in Miami federal court Wednesday

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    A fake version of the painting by Henri Matisse titled "Odalisque in Pants," was on display in the Sofia Imber Contemporary Art Museum of Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2003. Who, how and when the painting was replaced with a replica are questions still stumping the Venezuelan art museum, Interpol, the FBI and police in France and Spain, two countries where investigators believe the genuine painting could be now. The Caracas museum bought it in 1981.

    Two people have pleaded not guilty in Miami federal court to charges of trying to sell a stolen Henri Matisse painting to undercover FBI agents.
     
    The pleas were entered Wednesday by 46-year-old Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman of Miami and 50-year-old Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo of Mexico City. Both are jailed without bail and face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
     
    Court records show that FBI agents and an informant posing as art dealers were negotiating the sale for $740,000 of ``Odalisque in Red Pants'' with Marcuello in Miami. The $3 million painting was discovered stolen from Venezuela's Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art in December 2002. The original work was swapped with a forgery.
     

    Prosecutors say Ornelas brought the painting to a Miami Beach hotel from Mexico City.