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Truck driver gets 10 years in prison for art masterpiece theft

A driver stole a 1778 painting by Francisco de Goya from a transport truck, then he said he discovered it in his basement. The truck driver was accused of theft.

Steven Lee Olson, 49, was charged with stealing "Children with a Cart," a 1778 painting by famed Spanish artist Francisco de Goya, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. The painting was insured at a value of about $1 million (Ђ700,000).

In an initial appearance in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, on Wednesday, Olson through his lawyer decided not to immediately contest his detainment. A bail hearing was scheduled for Oct. 31.

The federal public defender representing Olson did not immediately return a phone message. A message left at a number listed for Olson also was not immediately returned.

The painting was being trucked to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City from Ohio's Toledo Museum of Art 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 didn't pay," FBI agent Sandra Carroll said.

Olson was arrested without incident at his home on Tuesday. He is charged 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 (Ђ175,685) fine.

The painting was returned undamaged to the Toledo 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.