Man Indicted on Fraud Charges in Connection to Stolen Artwork Case

A West Virginia man has been indicted on fraud charges after he allegedly told foreign art buyers over Craigslist that he was selling two paintings that had been stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum 27 years ago.

Forty-seven-year-old Todd Andrew Desper of Beckley, West Virginia, was arrested on May 22 and charged in a criminal complaint.

A grand jury in Boston indicted Desper on four counts of wire fraud and attempted wire fraud on Thursday.

Prosecutors say Desper, under the alias of "Mordokwan," tried to get foreign art buyers for both Rembrandt's Storm on the Sea of Galilee and Vermeer's The Concert — both of which he did not have in his possession — on Craigslist in several cities abroad, including London and Venice.

Desper then allegedly told interested buyers to create an encrypted email account to continue communication.

Authorities say they were alerted to Desper's actions by people trying to find the missing artwork and those trying to claim the then-$5-million reward. The reward has since been increased to $10 million.

Thirteen pieces of artwork were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in March of 1990. The combined worth of the stolen artwork is estimated to be around $500 million.

It's unclear if Desper has an attorney.

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