No charges yet after arrests in nearly $10-million art theft
Prosecutors Friday declined to charge a man arrested by Santa Monica police in connection with the theft of nearly $10 million in art, saying the case needed further investigation and that he would be set free.
Jay Jeffrey Nieto, 45, of Canyon Country was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of possessing stolen property after some of the works stolen from bond trader Jeffrey Gundlach were found inside the Al & Ed's Autosound near Pasadena that he manages.
After examining the case, prosecutors asked detectives to further investigate the allegations against Nieto, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the L.A. County district attorney's office. Prosecutors must decide within 48 hours whether to charge suspects in custody or they are released. Authorities could arrest Nieto again later and file charges.
Police recovered the contemporary art, including works by Piet Mondrian, Jasper Johns and Richard Diebenkorn, stolen this month from Gundlach's Santa Monica home. He had offered a near-record $1.7-million reward for the collection's safe return.
Police arrested Nieto and another suspect, and Gundlach said at least one of the pieces was in the midst of being sold. The big break in the case came Wednesday when Pasadena police received a tip that the stolen art was held at an automobile stereo shop, Santa Monica police said in a statement.A second suspect, Wilmer Cadiz, 40, was arrested at his home in Rosemead, also on suspicion of possessing stolen property. He was released in lieu of $20,000 bail and charges were not presented to prosecutors, Robison said.
The final painting was recovered at a residence in Glendale. The person who had it was not arrested and is cooperating with investigators, police said.
The burglary of Gundlach's home shook Southern California's art world, which includes many collections held by movie moguls and celebrities.
The reward offer played a key role in the art's recovery, according to a law enforcement source who was familiar with the case but not authorized to speak about it.
It was not clear whether the reward would be paid to the person who provided the tip that led to the arrests. Gundlach gave few details about the arrest or about the crime, which he discovered Sept. 14 after returning home from a two-day business trip to New York.
In addition to the art, the thieves made off with expensive watches, rare bottles of wine and his red 2010 Porsche Carrera. The Porsche is still missing.
He had offered $1 million for the return of a Mondrian painting called "Composition (A) En Rouge Et Blanc." The offer is said to be the highest-ever reward for a single painting. That was the painting Gundlach said the thieves had been trying to unload.
-- Richard Winton, Joe Bel Bruno and Stuart Pfeifer
Photo: Jay Jeffrey Nieto, 45, and Wilmer Bolosan Cadiz, 40. Credit: Santa Monica Police Department