A West Virginia man attempted to sell "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee" by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn even though he didn't have possession of the painting. It and several other paintings were stolen from a Boston museum in 1990. Image courtesy Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
May 16 (UPI) -- A federal judge sentenced a West Virginia man to time served and three years supervised release for his attempt to sell paintings stolen from a Boston art museum, the Justice Department said.
Todd Andrew Desper, 48, pleaded guilty in February to four counts of wire fraud and attempted wire fraud. Of the three years supervised release, three months must be served in home confinement, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Desper, who used the online handle "Mordokwan," never had access to any of the 13 paintings stolen in 1990 from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, but offered two of them for sale on Craigslist. He solicited foreign buyers for Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt and The Concert by Johannes Vermeer.
Prosecutors said Desper directed interested buyers to create an encrypted email account to communicate with him.
"At the direction of federal authorities, the security director for the Gardner Museum engaged in encrypted communications with Desper in an attempt to determine whether Desper had access to the stolen masterpieces," the Department of Justice said.
Desper told the security director to send him a cashier's check for $5 million and that the Rembrandt painting would be sent in return.
"The investigation ultimately revealed that Desper had no access to, nor information about, the stolen paintings, but was instead engaged in a multi-million dollar fraud scheme targeting foreign art buyers," the department said.
The FBI arrested Desper in May.