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Forest Hills man pleads guilty to stealing over $600K worth of art from employer, and attempting to sell it

July 25, 2017 By Jason Cohen

A Forest Hills man pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing more than $600,000 of art from his employer and attempting to sell it through an art dealer at a Manhattan flea market.

Leon Zinder, 48, allegedly stole more than 70 pieces of art and attempted to sell much of it between September 2015 and October 2016 through an art dealer who operated at an outdoor flea market in Lower Manhattan, according to the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Zinder was employed as an art handler by an unnamed New York company that manages an extensive art collection consisting of thousands of individual artworks, including a collection of Native-American and African ethnographic artwork.

He would steal some of these items and falsely tell the dealer that he obtained the works from an Arizona widow and from a storage-unit close out sale. However, the art dealer at the flea marked doubted these stories and notified authorities.

 “Today’s plea marks the end of Leon Zinder’s tall tales of discovering treasured art pieces that were really in fact stolen from his employer with the goal of reselling to profit himself,” said FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. on Thursday.

Zinder attempted to sell more than a dozen items, worth more than $600,000, through the dealer.  This included items such as a Fang Reliquary Guardian Head statue valued at approximately $85,000; a Native-American Mask valued at approximately $75,000; and a Pende mask valued at approximately $5,000.

Zinder faces up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the defendant’s gross gain or twice the victim’s gross loss resulting from the defendant’s conduct.

Zinder will to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood on a date to be determined.

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