Lost Warhol turns up in Aspen 17 years later
pitkin county correspondent
ASPEN ” The journey of an Andy Warhol painting presumed stolen between 1989 and 1990 ended last week when a joint Aspen police and FBI art theft unit investigation tracked it down.
The painting, a 3-by-4-foot depiction of heavyweight boxing icon Muhammad Ali, is valued at $100,000 to $120,000, according to records police released Wednesday.
The records, from Aspen detective Eric Ross, state that Alan Finkelstein of New York reported the painting stolen to New York police in 1990.
The grand larceny case went dry until local art dealer Christy Lee Pope listed the Warhol on http://www.artnet.com on April 7, police records show.
Ross quickly enlisted the help of the FBI and its art theft unit. On April 16, Ross met with an FBI agent and looked through Pope’s house with permission of a property manager.
They did not find the painting in the house but later contacted her by phone. She told them that Jeff Liddington, the owner of the CTS limousine service in Aspen, had asked her to list the painting for some friends, documents state.
Shortly after Pope listed the painting, however, Liddington had called her and asked to take the painting off, she said, according to police documents.
On April 26, the FBI agent and Ross interviewed Liddington about the Warhol. Though Liddington originally told them he didn’t think the painting was stolen, he eventually admitted it might be the case and told them to go talk to the owner, Alan Finkelstein, records said.
According to the documents, Liddington said he was told the painting actually belonged to Finkelstein’s ex-wife, Janice (last name not in documents). He said he had not ever met Janice and that a friend had asked him to sell the painting for a commission of $6,000 on the sale.
However, he said he got suspicious that the painting might have been stolen when his friend, acting for the ex-wife, asked him to take the painting off the Internet.
The 17-year saga ended with a single phone call, documents state. Finkelstein got a call from his ex-wife on May 1 in which she said the painting was part of a divorce settlement, he disagreed and she said she would return the Warhol to him.
On May 2, Finkelstein’s son picked the painting up from Janice in order to bring it back to his father. At that point, Finkelstein dropped criminal charges and said he did not want to pursue any further investigation.
The case was closed the same day.
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