Frenchman pleads guilty to aiding art thieves

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A French citizen pleads guilty to trying to sell famous stolen paintings by Money, Sisley and Brueghel.

11 July 2008

MIAMI - French citizen Bernard Jean Ternus on Thursday pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell paintings by Monet, Sisley and Brueghel that he knew had been stolen in 2007 from a museum in southern France.

Ternus, 55, was arrested in Florida after trying to sell the famous paintings to undercover FBI agents and an undercover French National Police officer, the Department of Justice and FBI said Thursday.

According to the plea documents, on January 19, 2008, Ternus and an unindicted co-conspirator met with the undercover agents in Barcelona, Spain, to negotiate a two-part transaction for the four paintings, totalling EUR 3 million.

On 4 June 2008, when the final exchange was to occur, the French National Police arrested Ternus' co-conspirators in southern France.

FBI agents arrested Ternus in Cooper City, Florida, and the French National Police located and recovered all four paintings from inside a van in Marseilles, France.

The paintings, "Cliffs Near Dieppe," by Claude Monet; "The Lane of Poplars at Moret," by Alfred Sisley; "Allegory of Water" and "Allegory of Earth," by Jan Breughel the Elder, were stolen 5 August 2007, from the Musee des Beaux-Arts in the French city of Nice.

"This investigation is a model of cooperative law enforcement in the fight against sophisticated international organized crime networks," US Attorney Alexander Acosta said.

"Thanks to the combined efforts of American, French and Spanish investigators, works by Monet, Sisley and Breughel have been returned to their rightful owner."

In addition to the conspiracy charge, Ternus pleaded guilty to a visa fraud charge, admitting that he fraudulently concealed his French criminal history to obtain a US visa, which he then used to enter and remain in the United States.

[AFP / Expatica]

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