TWO LOCAL MEN PLEAD GUILTY TO THE THEFT OF OVER AN ESTIMATED $3 MILLION OF ARTWORK REPRESENTING ARTISTS SUCH AS DEKOONING, ROTHKO & MATISSE
St. Louis , Missouri : Two local men have entered guilty pleas in connection with the theft of approximately three million dollars worth of artwork, United States Attorney Catherine L. Hanaway, FBI Special Agent in Charge Roland J. Corvington and Bridgeton Police Chief Walter H. Mutert announced today.
DONALD ROLAND RASCH, 44, of the 1400 block of Quendo, University City, Missouri, and BIRON VALIER, 37, of Ramblewood, Creve Coeur, Missouri, each pled guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to transport stolen goods in interstate commerce, Rasch entered his plea on Thursday August 25, Valier pled earlier today. Both defendants appeared before United States District Judge Charles A. Shaw.
Rasch and Valier each now face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or a fine of $250,000. Restitution is mandatory. Sentencing has been set for November 8, 2005 for Rasch and November 15, 2005 for Valier.
According to the facts filed with the court, From January 2002 through August 2002, Donald Rasch and co-defendant Biron Valier were employed by now defunct Fine Arts Express (FAE) which was located in the 4700 block of Earth City Expressway, Bridgeton, Missouri, During this time period, over 100 pieces of fine art belonging to a Florida couple were stored at this facility. In June 2002, Valier and Rasch stole these pieces of fine art from storage and divided them between themselves.
From June 2003 through June 2004, Rasch sold eight pieces of the art work valued at over $500,000 to a local art collector for a total of approximately $50,000. On August 22, 2002, Valier entered into a consignment agreement with a local gallery to sell the stolen pieces in Valier's possession. Both Rasch and Valier made false representations to buyers that they had good title and legal authority to sell the fine art.
Between August 22, 2002 and September 2004, seven of the pieces were sold by the gallery and then shipped in interstate or foreign commerce. The paintings sold include the following.
1. Robert Motherwell "Window"
2. Guy Buffet "Matisse in His Studio"
3. Mark Rothko "Untitled"
4. Philip Guston "Abstract"
5. Joan Mitchell " Yellow River "
6. Richard Diebenkom "Blue and Red"
7. Manuel Neri "Nude in a Profile"
"The majority of the 100 pieces have been recovered due to the diligent investigative work by the FBI and the Bridgeton Police Department," said United States Attorney Catherine L. Hanaway.
Among the other pieces of artwork that were stolen were:
1. Henri Matisse " Lydia "
2. Henri Matisse "The Nightmare of the White Elephant"
3. Henri Matisse "Monsieur Loyal-Jaz"
4. Willem Dekooning "Untitled (B2)"
A listing of the artwork stolen ftom Fine Arts Express/Fortress is attached as Exhibit A.
"Beside the cumulative efforts of the St. Louis FBI and the Bridgeton Police Department in investigating this case, it also highlights a new concept in FBI operations dedicated to recovering stolen art and cultural artifacts," noted FBI Special Agent in Charge Roland Corvington. A unique program initiated in 2004 by the FBI, and named the FBI Rapid Deployment Art Crime Team, assisted in the recovery of some of the stolen artwork from Tokyo, Japan; New York, New York; San Francisco, California; and, of course, St. Louis, Missouri.