Bizarre Dali Theft Explained

Greek publicist allegedly freaked, mailed drawing back

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 20, 2013 9:06 AM CST

(Newser) – After a thief walked out of a New York gallery with a Salvador Dali drawing only to later return it by mail, observers were scratching their heads—but now they have an explanation, via prosecutors. Authorities arrested Greek fashion publicist Phivos Lampros Istavrioglou, 29, in the case; he has pleaded not guilty, the Wall Street Journal reports. The back story: At the gallery, Istavrioglou realized the $150,000 drawing was unprotected and removed it, taking it with him back to Athens, prosecutors say.

Once he arrived, prosecutors say he had second thoughts. "When he realized the hunt was on, the defendant blinked" and sent it back, rolling it up "in a manner befitting a college dorm-room poster." Among the evidence detectives are said to have uncovered in the case: Istavriglou's fingerprint on the mailing tube, relevant Web searches made from his Google account before the story broke, and a photo of the drawing in the gallery that he posted to his Facebook page. Istavrioglou was caught after an undercover cop posed as a New York art gallery manager and offered him a job, returning him to the Big Apple. He's due back in court today, the New York Times notes.

This image provided by the New York Police Department shows a surveillance camera image of a man suspected of stealing a Salvador Dali painting from a Manhattan art gallery Thursday, June 21, 2012.
This image provided by the New York Police Department shows a surveillance camera image of a man suspected of stealing a Salvador Dali painting from a Manhattan art gallery Thursday, June 21, 2012.   (AP Photo/New York Police Department)
This image provided by the New York Police Department shows a 1949 Salvador Dali painting called Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio.
This image provided by the New York Police Department shows a 1949 Salvador Dali painting called "Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio."   (AP Photo/New York Police Department)
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A Surreal ending to a surreal theft. - Gallery head Adam Lindemann

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