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

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A Forest Hills man has pleaded guilty to stealing $600,000 worth of art from his employer and selling over state lines.

Leon Zinder, 48, pleaded guilty to the interstate sale of stolen property in connection with his theft and attempted sale of more than a dozen works of art. His sentencing date has yet to be determined, where he faces a maximum penalty of 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.

According to charges, from July 2010 to April 2012, Zinder was employed as an art handler by a New York-based company. During that time, Zinder stole more than 70 pieces of art from facilities maintained by the company.

From September 2015 through October 2016, Zinder was selling the stolen art through a dealer at an outdoor flea market in lower Manhattan, falsely claiming that he obtained the art from an elderly widow in Phoenix, AZ, and from storage unit close-out sale. Zinder later attempted to sell at least 13 pieces of art from the collection, including 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 from the company’s facility in Greenwich, CT.

Over time, the dealer became aware that the pieces he helped Zinder sell had been reported stolen by the company. The dealer then contacted the FBI, returned a number of pieces of stolen art and aided them in the investigation.

Zinder was arrested on Dec. 9, 2016 at his home in Forest Hills and charged with one count of interstate sale of stolen property.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “As he admitted today, Leon Zinder stole works of art worth more than $600,000 from his former employer, which he then sought to sell through a flea market in Manhattan.  Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the FBI, nearly all of these works have been recovered, and will be returned to their rightful owner.”


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