Art Law

Retired Lawyer, 74, a 'Glorified Fence,’ Gets 7 Years in Cezanne Case

A 30-year stolen art saga has ended with a seven-year federal prison sentence for a 74-year-old retired lawyer with dementia who was described by the judge in the case as a “glorified fence.”

Robert Mardirosian, a retired Massachusetts lawyer, was sentenced yesterday for attempting to profit from the seven stolen paintings by famed Impressionist Paul Cezanne that he says a client left in his office loft after spending a night there, reports the Boston Globe. The paintings were stolen from a private home in 1978, in what reportedly was the state’s biggest art theft ever, and the client, David Colvin, was shot to death in 1979.

Mardirosian says he found the art works in his office loft in 1980. Instead of returning them to the owner, however, he put them in storage in Switzerland and eventually agreed to return the most valuable one in 1999 exchange for title to the other six. However, that transaction resulted in a federal court conviction for possession of stolen property earlier this year, as discussed in an earlier post.

The Cezanne initially returned to its owner, Bouilloire et Fruits, was then sold at auction for nearly $30 million.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mark Wolf gave Mardirosian less than the 10 years the prosecution had sought, but far more than the two years of home confinement that Mardirosian’s attorney had recommended.

“The only reason I’m sentencing a 74-year-old man in the early stages of dementia is because you were calculating enough to get away with this for 30 years,” the judge stated, explaining that it was important to set an example for any other lawyers who might be tempted by opportunities to profit from crime.

“You started as a lawyer,” Wolf told Mardirosian. “As far I’m concerned, you became a glorified fence.”

The judge hasn’t yet decided whether to release Mardirosian pending an appeal.

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