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Police Recover Stolen Washington Portrait, Arrest Suspect

December 14, 1987

BALTIMORE (AP) _ A $25,000 miniature portrait of George Washington taken from the Baltimore Museum of Art last week was recovered undamaged, and a 36-year-old Mexican citizen was charged with the theft.

The watercolor-on-ivory painting by James Peale was found Saturday in a small wicker basket in the apartment of Eduardo Jose Bistrain, police spokesman Larry Leeson said Sunday.

A man with a Hispanic accent, who identified himself as ″Jose,″ called The Sun of Baltimore early Friday and claimed he stole the miniature in retaliation for the theft of pre-Columbian artifacts from the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City two years ago.

There was no immediate comment by authorities on a possible connection between Bistrain and the phone call.

Bistrain, who had been a draftsman with a local architectural firm until he was fired Friday, was charged with felony theft and was being held in city jail pending a bond hearing later Sunday.

He was arrested Saturday at the offices of his former employer after a museum guard identified him from a photograph, police said. The painting was recovered late Saturday after authorities obtained a search warrant.

The suspect was described as a Mexican citizen who moved to Baltimore in April from Austin, Texas. There was no immediate comment on a possible connection with the anonymous phone call.

The caller was apparently referring to the theft of about 140 of Mexico’s most treasured objects, including gold, jade and turquoise objects crafted by the Mayas, Aztecs and other Central American cultures before the Spanish conquest. That case remains unsolved.

Jose told the newspaper he knew who stole the Mexican artifacts, describing the thieves as ″Texans.″