ST. LOUIS COUNTY - A painting stolen from a St. Louis County home more than six years ago — now valued at up to $1 million — has been located in Florida and will be returned, the FBI said Tuesday.
The 1926 work, an untitled Juan Gris oil painting, was taken April 18, 2004, when someone smashed a window in Clifton Hyatt's front door, rushed in and grabbed the painting off the wall, Hyatt said at the time.
The painting was appraised at $425,000 in 2000. The FBI said it is now worth $1 million, although it was damaged by water while it was hidden away, Hyatt said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
"It's a bizarre situation, to say the least," Hyatt said.
Hyatt acquired the cubist artist's painting in Spain while stationed there in the Air Force in the late 1950s or early 1960s, he said.
The FBI said that St. Louis police tracked the painting to south Florida, but the "trail went cold" until the FBI's Miami Division got a tip in May 2009. At an October 2009 meeting, Robert C. Dibartolo of Fort Pierce, Fla., showed an undercover FBI employee pictures of the painting and said he and someone else "went in on this" and "paid pretty good for it," according to court documents.
The other person involved has since died, Dibartolo said.
After a meeting and a series of phone calls with someone helping the FBI, Dibartolo took the painting, wrapped in a blue blanket, to a Jupiter, Fla., hotel room in March. He was arrested and said that he received the painting about five years ago from an "associate" in St. Louis, one of two "notorious burglars," according to court documents.
He was trying to sell the painting for $80,000, court records show. Federal prosecutors said that restoring the painting could cost $10,000.
Art dealer Robert Lococo, reached by telephone Tuesday, said that he and Hyatt's lawyer will take custody of the painting from the FBI and sell it, most likely at auction in London.
Lococo said that he was "anxious" to get the Gris in his hands, as he has only seen a recent picture.
He also said he does not know what the painting will be worth. A bigger, potentially better Gris recently sold for $20 million, he said, cautioning that, "It's very difficult to make that comparison."
Despite the stolen painting's new back story, "the damage, obviously, would make it less valuable," Lococo said.
Dibartolo, 68, pleaded guilty in July in federal court in Florida to the sale or receipt of stolen goods and was sentenced Sept. 20 to one year and one day in prison.
The FBI planned to display the Gris at a news conference this morning.