High-Class Heists

Hang on tightly to those Picassos at Basel. Art crime is on the rise.

For legit dealers in South Florida, the never-ending spark of criminal activity is a frustrating reality of operating in a city new to the high-stakes world of fine art. "It's an enormous problem as a gallery owner in Miami, especially with all the Cuban art coming in," says Gary Nader, who owns a gallery in Wynwood. "There's a lot of money in this market and not a lot of expertise. The public is very new to art buying, so responsibility falls on the dealers."

Nader sighs, "And, unfortunately, most of the dealers don't know what they're doing either."

Brucie Rosch

As for the pre-Columbian art turned up in that Coconut Grove house: This past September, the 168 stolen items — which were illegally dug up from historic sites around Ecuador — were at last sent back to their homeland, along with 583 other pieces the thieves had stockpiled in their hometown of Guayaquil. The alleged offenders got off easy, though. Charges were dropped against Edgar Nakache and Susan Aviles; Cecilia Marcillo-Aviles pleaded guilty and was sentenced to time served in prison and fined $600.

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