Art of thievery puts man behind bars

By BARBARA GOLDBERG   |   June 28, 1989

NEW YORK -- A man with a passion for works by Joan Miro and Marc Chagall was arrested for possessing stolen fine art paintings, sculptures and prints at his posh apartment overlooking Central Park, authorities said Wednesday.

Surrounded by some of the 40 pieces of art seized Monday, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said each was believed to have been stolen in burglaries committed in April.

Among the targeted sites were the Center Art Gallery on West 57th Street and the Lever Brothers Gallery on Park Avenue.

After receiving a tip, police went to the home of Joseph Cinque, 51.

'He wouldn't let us in,' Sgt. Raymond Gallagher said at the news conference.

Gallagher said Cinque shouted, 'You're not coming in here.'

'We had to take the door down with a battering ram,' Gallagher said.

Once inside, police found an art lover's paradise. The walls of the swank one-bedroom apartment were splashed with works by Miro and Chagall, its rooms graced with sculptures by Cecille Schatzberg and apparently Frederick Remington, Morgenthau said.

Cinque was charged with one count of criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree. If convicted of the felony, he faces up to seven years in prison.

He was arraigned late Tuesday and held in lieu of $20,000 bail.

Sources said Cinque, who is unemployed, not only acted as a 'fence' for the stolen artworks, but also had a personal 'obsession' for art.

Authorities said they were investigating whether he was part of an art theft ring.

Cinque has no known prior convictions, although his criminal history includes arrests for grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and insurance fraud.

One of the Chagall prints, entitled 'Mother and Child,' is a black and white depiction of a woman holding a child. The other, a colored print, depicts a twilight scene of a window and vase.

Both are signed, and Michael Borskin of the Center Art Gallery estimated their worth at more than $20,000.

The Schatzberg sculpture of a woman, apparently stolen during working hours at the Lever Brothers Gallery, was estimated to be worth $9,000.

Authorities said they are still checking the authenticity of the other artwork to determine its value.

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