Miami-Dade Cops Nab Million-Dollar Art Thief in the Midst of Art Basel

A good lesson for Art Basel-goers: If you try to get millions in art for a buck, a cup of coffee, and a hastily brandished firearm, you're going to have some trouble with the fuzz.

Miami-Dade Police have arrested a local man accused of stealing millions of dollars in paintings at gunpoint Tuesday -- but they have yet to track down the missing artwork.

Jorge Alberto Gonzalez, a 47-year-old Southwest Dade resident, was arrested late Wednesday and charged with two felonies, including the alleged theft of ten paintings worth more than $1 million.

Here's how it went down:

On Monday, Gonzalez made contact with a local art owner named Jorge Zaragozi and his dealer, Gustavo Grande Nuñez.

Nuñez showed Gonzalez a large collection of paintings and negotiated the sale of ten pieces for $985,000 -- including the painting by Albert Gleizes pictured above, which is valued at $1.4 million, says Det. Rebecca Perez, a Miami-Dade Police spokeswoman.

The two men met again, on December 1 around 1 p.m., and loaded the paintings into Gonzalez's car. The plan was to drive to his office, where he'd pay Nuñez for the artwork.

On the way, Gonzalez pulled into a bakery and gave Nuñez a dollar to buy a cup of coffee inside.

When Nuñez got back to the car, Gonzalez nicely informed him that the buck and the joe were pretty much all the dealer was going to get for the artwork. To bolster his point, Gonzelez pulled out a handgun.

"You will never see the paintings again," he told the dealer in Spanish.

He might just be right. Police caught up with Gonzelez the next day and arrested him at his home near SW 97th Avenue and 104th Street.

After police read him his rights, he admitted he had the paintings.

But according to the arrest report, "he was not going to disclose their location because that was his investment for the future."

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink