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Report: Authorities Recover Paintings Reported Stolen From Airport

February 7, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ Authorities have recovered three paintings _ including two Picassos _ that were reported stolen from Kennedy Airport, a newspaper reported today.

Law enforcement sources said an arrest ``was imminent,″ according to Newsday. FBI spokesman Joseph Valiquette said early today that he couldn’t confirm the works were recovered.

Avelino Espinosa Gonzalez, an airline passenger from Mexico who told authorities he co-owned the works, told the newspaper: ``Now I’m going to sleep well.″

He said the paintings were stolen after he left them in storage overnight at the airport, according to the FBI, U.S. Customs and the Port Authority, which runs the airport.

Gonzalez, a construction businessman, said he was carrying the three pieces aboard an Aeromexico flight that arrived Thursday night.

His lawyer, Kevin Dyer, identified the works as a 1927 painting by Pablo Picasso titled ``Woman Seated With Skull in Left Hand,″ a 1956 Picasso drawing titled ``Portrait of a Woman Dedicated to Jacqueline″ and a 1897 painting by Camille Pissarro called ``Paris Street.″

A provenance of those titles could not be obtained Tuesday. Newsday said the paintings were worth up to $15 million, but it did not indicate what that estimate was based upon.

When Gonzalez declared them at customs he was told that, because of their value, additional paperwork was required. Arrangements were made for a baggage handling company to store the artworks.

When Gonzalez tried to claim them Friday, they couldn’t be found, Dyer told Newsday.

He said his client is one of three people who own the works, which he said were being brought to New York for appraisal at Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses.

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