New Jersey police reports, truck driver who stole an art masterpiece by Spanish artist Francisco de Goya from an unattended transport truck and then claimed he found it in his basement was charged with theft.
Steven Lee Olson, 49, was charged with stealing "Children with a Cart," a 1778 painting by Goya, federal prosecutors said. The painting was insured at a value of about $1 million (EUR700,000).
In an initial appearance in federal court in Newark on Wednesday, Olson through his lawyer decided not to immediately contest his detainment.
The federal public defender representing Olson did not immediately return a phone message. A message left at a number listed for Olson also wasn't immediately returned.
The painting was being trucked to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City from the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio last November. It was stolen as the transport drivers spent the night at a Pennsylvania motel. They discovered it missing the next morning.
Within days, Olson contacted federal authorities through an attorney to say he found the painting in his basement, said U.S Attorney's office spokesman Michael Drewniak.
After a lengthy investigation, authorities determined that Olson, a self-employed truck driver, had lifted the piece himself, Drewniak said.
"It was a crime of opportunity that did not pay," FBI agent Sandra Carroll said.
Olson was arrested without incident at his home in Carlstadt Tuesday. He is charged in the indictment with theft of an object of cultural heritage from a museum, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 (EUR175,000) fine.
The painting was returned undamaged to the Ohio museum. In February, the museum allowed the painting to be included for a few weeks in the Guggenheim exhibit.
Goya painted "Children with a Cart" in 1778 as a model for a tapestry planned for the bedroom of a Spanish prince. The group of four children includes one boy blowing a horn and another with his back to the viewer.
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