Hammocks District detectives aid in recovery of stolen art

CAC chair James Blough (left) honors part of Hammocks District “Art Forgery” team — (l-r) Detectives Miguel Garcia, Evelyn Guas and Manuel Machado — at Nov. 30 meeting. Also pictured is Capt. Herman Organvidez (right).

Reading like a page out of the history of art forgery, a citation honoring a five-member team from Miami-Dade Police Hammocks District praised its role in the arrest of Jorge Alberto Gonzalez for two stolen artworks valued at $1.5 million.

Sgt. David Quintana; Detectives Miguel Garcia, Evelyn Guas, Manuel Machado, and Salvador Perez had worked with the FBI on the case ever since an initial contact through the State Attorney’s office, according to Capt. Herman Organvidez.

The case began on Dec. 2, 2009, when Det. Garcia and Sgt. Quintana arrested Gonzalez at his residence, 7840 SW 89 Ave., for the theft of two paintings, described as stolen from an art dealer named Gustavo Nunez.

“As a result of a search incident, Det. Garcia seized 72 blank certificates of authenticity which appeared to be signed by artist Jose Maria Mijares who died in 2004. At the time of the arrest, Gonzalez also had in his possession a photograph of the deceased artist in the process of making his signature.”

For the Hammocks unit, the case reopened in November 2010 when Det. Garcia followed up on a report dealing with a fraudulent painting for which Maria Davila alleged she had deposited $250,000 into Gonzalez’s bank account.

“Gonzalez gave her a supposed original painting by Cuban artist Amelia Pelaez worth approximately $500,000 as collateral,” the citation states, adding “the painting was later determined to be a forgery.” Davila’s money was never recovered.

For 11 months, Det. Garcia and the four officers visited multiple art galleries, interviewed several art experts and identified “numerous victims that were defrauded by Gonzalez.” As a result, his bank records were subpoenaed and controlled phone calls compiled “an endless amount of evidence” to charge Gonzalez with newly discovered crimes.

After obtaining an arrest warrant on Nov. 3, Det. Garcia entered Gonzalez’s home on Nov. 8 and he and investigators “observed several paintings in plain view…consistent to the ones described by the victims.”

A search warrant issued on Nov.10 revealed “five known stolen paintings, multiple fraudulent paintings, falsified certificates of authenticity, paperwork of previous thefts and sale from Institute De Ciencias Medicas De La Habana, used to authenticate the paintings.

An additional 40 paintings were then seized as “possibly stolen or fraudlent” with the estimated recoveries of five authentic paintings valued at $1.5 million, the citation stated.

“The hard work, dedication and teamwork of these officers resulted in the arrest of an individual who preyed on multiple victims and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from victims throughout Miami-Dade County,” Capt. Organvidez stated.

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