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article imageGreek man cited in 'surreal' Dali painting theft

By Abigail Prendergast     Feb 20, 2013 in Crime
A Greek man who is accused of having stolen a Salvador Dali painting last June before making an effort to rectify his mistake and send it back pleaded not guilty to charges of grand larceny. The painting is appraised at a value of $150,000.
While some thieves have been known to be "slick" in recent robberies, others have proven to be far less skilled in the art of thievery.
In this case, the latter type of situation occurred when a Greek man made the rather "inept" effort to steal a valuable watercolor painting by leading 20th Century surrealist, Salvador Dali.
Dali, who was probably most famous for his painting, The Persistence of Memory, had another piece which hung in a New York gallery until a Greek man made an attempt to steal it.
According to The Guardian, Phivos Istavrioglou, 29, made all sorts of mistakes in his botched endeavor to take the valuable watercolor valued at 150,000 dollars. The wannabe thief had "left fingerprints that helped detectives track him down," which even he thought of as reckless.
Istavrioglou also had a great sense of remorse as he walked out of the gallery located on the Upper East Side back in June 2012. He felt "scared and couldn't believe what a stupid thing he did," report the court papers containing his confession. reports that Istavrioglou, who lives in Athens, Greece, pleaded not guilty at his court appearance in Manhattan on Tuesday. The judge set bail at 100,000 dollars and Istavrioglou's attorney didn't comment right away.
The painting in question was Dali's 1949 piece, Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio, and prosecutors are accusing Istavrioglou of pilfering it in broad daylight from the gallery during his visit to New York City last June.
Authorities are also calling the theft just as dreamlike as the painting itself: "It was almost surreal how this theft was committed – a thief is accused of putting a valuable Salvador Dalí drawing into a shopping bag in the middle of the afternoon, in full view of surveillance cameras," Cyrus R Vance Jr., the district attorney, told the Guardian.
After the robbery, authorities had released images of Istavrioglou's pursuit which had been seen worldwide. After learning of such, he unframed the piece, then rolled it in a way akin to "a college dorm poster," before mailing it back to New York. Prosecutor, Jordan Arnold also pointed out that there was no return address.
Upon lifting the fingerprints off of the painting, New York police were able to determine that they belonged to Istavrioglou because they matched those from a bottle of juice he shoplifted from a Whole Foods market last year.
Istavrioglou was then lured into thinking he was offered a potential consulting position by an investigator who posed as an owner of an art gallery.
He was ultimately apprehended at John F. Kennedy International airport on Saturday by federal agents. Court papers indicate that Istavrioglou informed investigators of his guilt and wanted to make things "right."
More about Salvador dali, Surreal, new york gallery