Earlier this month, it was announced that a Beckley, West Virginia man had pleaded guilty in connection with a scheme in which he purported to sell paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. 48-year-old Todd Andrew Desper, aka Mordokwan, pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud and attempted wire fraud. The defendant is now scheduled to be sentenced on May 15, 2018.
The defendant solicited foreign buyers for the Storm on the Sea of Galilee and Vermeer’s The Concert on Craigslist. Interested buyers were instructed to create an encrypted email account to communicate with Mordokwan. Authorities received word about the Craigslist postings from individuals interested in the artworks’ recovery and those seeking the multi-million dollar reward offered by the museum.
As a result, the security director for the Gardner Museum began communicating with Desper in hopes of determining whether or not he really had access to the stolen masterpieces. Desper told the security director to send a cashier’s check for $5 million to a location in West Virginia. In return, the Storm on the Sea of Galilee would be shipped and concealed behind another painting.
It was eventually discovered the Desper had no access to the stolen paintings. Instead, he was engaged in a multi-million dollar fraud scheme targeting foreign art buyers. At the time of sentencing, Desper will face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison along with three years of supervised release.
Additional details have been made available here.