A mover and his mother-in-law were arrested in the theft of two Pablo Picasso drawings from an apartment after the owner died.
The drawings, of a guitar and a mandolin, were worth more than $60,000 (Ђ46,210) and were part of an extensive art collection owned by William Kingsland, who died in March, the city's Department of Investigation said Thursday.
The Manhattan public administrator's office, which handles the estates of dead people who have no wills or relatives, hired a consulting firm to sift through Kingsland's collection. The consultant photographed the two black and white cubist sketches on April 26 and included them in a catalog of the collection shown to representatives of art galleries and auction houses for possible sale.
The mover, Nahum "Nino" Kohen, was hired in May to cart Kingsland's household furnishings and other items of lesser value to a warehouse for auction. The public administrator's office noticed the drawings were missing in June.
Investigators traced the stolen drawings to Kohen after learning that his mother-in-law, Ori Lellouch, later tried to sell them, the DOI said. The paintings have been recovered.
The FBI had been investigating works of art from the collection that had been stolen years earlier and learned that an art broker had obtained one of the missing drawings from Lellouch, the DOI said, reports AP.
"Not only are these defendants charged with stealing from their own customers but from the dead," DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said in a statement. "Stealing on the job is not a fringe benefit."
Kohen, 38, was charged with second-degree grand larceny and second-degree criminal possession of stolen property. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison. Lellouch, 56, was charged with criminal possession of stolen property and could face a year in prison if convicted.
Kohen's attorney said his client did not steal the Picasso drawings.