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Cops Recover Picassos, Hold Suspects

February 7, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ Police recovered three artworks _ believed to be two Picassos and a Pissarro _ reported stolen from Kennedy Airport and arrested two men in the heist, the Port Authority said today.

The men were arrested Tuesday night, according to Tom Middlemiss, an authority spokesman.

Jason George, 26, and his brother-in-law, Joseph Caselle, 19, were charged with grand larceny. George worked for four years at a baggage handling company hired to take care of the art, Middlemiss said.

Avelino Espinosa Gonzalez, an airline passenger from Mexico, told detectives he co-owned the works. He said they were stolen after he left them in storage overnight at the airport.

``Now I’m going to sleep well,″ he told Newsday, which first reported the recovery.

Gonzalez, a construction businessman, said he was carrying the three pieces on an Aeromexico flight that landed at Kennedy on 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 an 1897 painting by Camille Pissarro, ``Paris Street.″

Newsday reported that the paintings were worth up to $15 million, but did not indicate what the estimate was based on.

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

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

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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