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Former Lawyer Convicted in Art Case

A federal jury in Boston yesterday found former Massachusetts lawyer Robert M. Mardirosian guilty of possessing six Impressionist paintings that he knew had been stolen in the largest private art theft in Massachusetts history. As Jonathan Saltzman reports today in The Boston Globe, Mardirosian took the paintings, which had allegedly been stolen by one of his clients from a house in the Berkshires, and brought them to Europe for storage. The stolen paintings included a major Cezanne piece, "Bouilloire et Fruits."

Mardirosian's client, David Colvin, is alleged to have stolen them from their private owner, Michael Bakwin, but Colvin was shot to death in 1979. A year later, Mardirosian discovered them in an office loft he owned. Saltzman tells what happened then:

Mardirosian, who was allegedly told by Colvin that the paintings were stolen, did not try to return them, but instead stored them in Switzerland. In 1999, using a shell company and lawyers, Mardirosian returned the Cezanne to Bakwin in exchange for title to the six other paintings, which are much less valuable, according to records and testimony.

Bakwin later sold the Cezanne for $29.3 million. When Mardirosian began arrangements to sell the remaining six paintings in London, Bakwin went to court to block the sale. That led to the federal investigation that culminated in Mardirosian's conviction yesterday.

The ex-lawyer's defense was that he was only trying to collect a finder's fee for recovering the valuable Cezanne. Based on his agreement with Bakwin, he argued that his possession of the paintings was lawful. Now facing a maximum of 10 years in prison, he says he will appeal. "I think we've got a good appeal," he told Saltzman.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on August 19, 2008 at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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