Artwork Stolen from Mass. Home in 1976 Resurfaces in R.I. Court

March 4, 2008

Three paintings stolen more than 30 years ago are now the subject of a court fight after turning up in the home of a prominent Rhode Islander.

The paintings, valued at about $1 million, were taken during a violent home invasion in Shrewsbury, Mass., in 1976.

Patrick Conley, a lawyer and developer from Bristol, R.I., said he received the paintings from his younger brother as collateral on a $22,000 loan.

Conley said he did not know where his brother obtained the paintings, but did not believe he knew of their value.

“I don’t think my brother realized they were real either,” Conley told The Providence Journal. “If he thought they were real, he’s not going to leave a million dollars in my possession.”

Though the paintings are worth $1 million now, they were valued at roughly $45,000 after the robbery, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Conley said he contacted an art dealer in Newport last year to determine the paintings’ authenticity; the dealer told him that the works were real but that they were also listed as stolen on the Art Loss Register. The dealer told Conley he would contact the FBI.

U.S. Attorney Robert Clark Corrente earlier this month filed a
civil action in federal court in Providence to make sure the
paintings are restored to their rightful owner. Conley and his wife
are fighting for the paintings, as are an heir to Mae Persky, who
was the original owner of the paintings; and the
Massachusetts-based insurer that paid Persky for the thefts.

A federal judge will determine who gets to keep the paintings, which are currently in the FBI’s custody.

The oil paintings were from American impressionist Child Hassam; American William Hamilton; and French realist Gustave Courbet.

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