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Six charged in multimillion-dollar Santa Monica art heist

January 4, 2013 |  4:06 pm

 Jeffrey Gundlach at a Sept. press conference on the art stolen from his Santa Monica home.

Los Angeles County prosecutors have charged six people in connection with the multimillion-dollar theft of paintings, wine and jewelry from bond trader Jeffrey Gundlach's Santa Monica home.

Darren Agee Merager, 43, allegedly broke into Gundlach’s home between Sept. 12 and Sept. 13, and stole items worth at least $3.2 million, said L.A. County Deputy Dist. Atty. Alva Lin.

Merager then allegedly returned hours later and stole Gundlach’s 2010 red Porsche Carrera at the behest of Jay Jeffrey Nieto, 45. Nieto would allegedly help hide the stolen art and other items at his car audio store.

PHOTOS: Art stolen in $10-million burglary

Gundlach, in an extraordinary move, had offered a near-record $1.7-million bounty for the return of his cherished collection, taken while he was away on business. All of the art, including works by Jasper Johns, Piet Mondrian and Richard Diebenkorn, was recovered.

Pasadena police, within weeks, got a tip about the art being at Al & Ed's Autosound on Rosemead Boulevard in unincorporated East Pasadena. Investigators went there and found much of the art. A second suspect, Wilmer Bolosan Cadiz, 40, was arrested at his home in Rosemead, also on suspicion of possessing stolen property. Police said he was in possession of four paintings. The final painting was recovered at a Glendale residence.

Cadiz, 40, is charged with conspiracy and receiving stolen items. In addition to the three, prosecutors have charged as co-conspirators Merager’s 68-year-old mother, Brenda Joyce Merager, and two brothers, 29-year-old Wanis George Wahba and 26-year-old, Ely George Wahba.

Prosecutors allege the trio tried to sell and conceal the stolen items. They are scheduled to be arraigned Friday at the Airport Courthouse with prosecutors asking that bail be set at $10 million for each defendant.

Merager, who has multiple prior convictions, is facing more than nine years in state prison if convicted.

The case was as notable for its reward as the theft, with Gundlach offering $1 million for the return of a Mondrian painting called “Composition (A) En Rouge Et Blanc.”

Gundlach said the thieves were in the process of selling the Mondrian when they were caught. After the crime, the bond trader fortified the security at the home.


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--Richard Winton

Photo: Jeffrey Gundlach at a September news conference on the art stolen from his Santa Monica home. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times