Two People Arrested After Trying to Sell Stolen Henri Matisse Painting: Officials

The painting is valued at $3 million

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    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 were arrested after being found with a Henri Matisse painting that had been stolen from a museum in Venezuela, prosecutors said Wednesday.

    Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman, 46, from Miami, and Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo, 50, of Mexico City, face charges for being in possession of "Odalisque in Red Pants," the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida said in a statement.

    Marcuello negotiated the sale of the painting, which had been stolen from the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas, Venezuela in December 2002, the complaint affidavit said.

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    The painting is valued at $3 million. Marcuello allegedly told undercover agents that he knew the painting was stolen and would sell it for $740,000, prosecutors said. He also agreed to have the painting taken by courier to the U.S. from Mexico, where it was stored, according to prosecutors. The courier was identified as Ornelas.

    On Monday, Ornelas arrived at the Miami International Airport from Mexico carrying the painting in a red tube, the affidavit said. A day later, both Marcuello and Ornelas met with undercover agents in Miami Beach and were arrested after taking out the painting, which appeared to look like the stolen Matisse, prosecutors said.

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    It wasn’t immediately known if they had attorneys.

    If convicted Marcuello and Ornelas face a maximum sentence of up to 10 years.