Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – West Virginia man admits to fraud tied to Boston art heist

BOSTON (Reuters) – A West Virginia man pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges he fraudulently offered to sell some of the $500 million in artwork that was stolen from a Boston museum in 1990 and never recovered, even though he had no access to the paintings.

FILE PHOTO: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is pictured in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., March 18, 2013. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi/File Photo

Todd Desper, 48, entered his plea in Boston federal court to wire fraud charges related to a scheme in which he offered to sell two paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the largest art heist in U.S. history.

Those paintings were Rembrandt’s “Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” and Vermeer’s “The Concert,” which were among the 13 artworks taken in a theft that remains one of the highest-profile unsolved crimes in Boston history.

Desper is scheduled to be sentenced on May 15. His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The charge of wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Prosecutors said Desper, using the alias “Mordokwan,” from November 2016 to January 2017 offered the paintings for sale to foreign buyers using Craigslist and directed those interested to use encrypted email accounts to communicate with him.

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