A mover and his mother-in-law were arrested Thursday in the theft of two Pablo Picasso drawings from an apartment after the owner died.
The drawings, of a guitar and a mandolin, were worth more than $60,000 and were part of the extensive art collection of William Kingsland, who died in March, the city’s Department of Investigation said.
The Manhattan public administrator’s office, which handles the estates of dead people who have no wills or relatives, hired a consulting firm to sift through Kingsland’s collection. The consultant photographed the two black and white cubist sketches April 26 and included them in a catalog shown to representatives of art galleries and auction houses.
The mover, Nahum “Nino” Kohen, was hired in May to cart items to a warehouse for auction. The public administrator’s office noticed the drawings were missing in June.
“Not only are these defendants charged with stealing from their own customers but from the dead,” Investigation Department Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said in a statement. “Stealing on the job is not a fringe benefit.”
Kohen, 38, was charged with second-degree grand larceny and second-degree criminal possession of stolen property. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison. Ori Lellouch, 56, was charged with criminal possession of stolen property and could face a year in prison if convicted.
Kohen’s attorney said his client didn’t steal the Picasso drawings, which were about 12 inches by 12 inches framed and have been recovered.
“Nahum Kohen is absolutely innocent of these charges, and we hope that this grave injustice can be undone as soon as possible,” attorney Roger Stavis said.
Stavis said he didn’t know who was representing Lellouch, and there was no home telephone listing for her.