NEWPORT BEACH — A $45,000 painting by comedian Red Skelton that had been stolen from a Newport Beach art gallery nearly a year ago was recovered Monday, police said.
Peter Nanka, 35, who is currently in jail in Monterey County on suspicion of another art theft, is charged in an arrest warrant with the May 11 theft from Pagliacci gallery, police said.
Police Sgt. Andy Gonis said the 11-by-14-inch oil painting of a clown was turned over by a Redondo Beach attorney who represents a woman indirectly related to the case.
The woman, whose name was withheld by police, is not considered a suspect, Gonis said. He declined to discuss the woman's involvement.
The painting, titled "Bright Eyes," was one of two Red Skelton works taken from the gallery in the May 11 theft. The other was a pencil sketch entitled "Freddie the Freeloader," worth about $5,000, police said.
Police allege that Nanka entered the gallery with a woman who then left with the paintings as Nanka distracted the owner.
"We're still looking for the other suspect and the other painting," Gonis said.
Bob Lennon, the owner of Pagliacci, said he was "just glad the oil painting is back and in perfect condition. . . . I thought (getting it back) was a lost cause."
Investigators in Newport Beach were tipped to Nanka earlier this month by Warren Poitras, a detective with the Carmel Police Department.
During his investigation into the theft of a $17,000 statue of a horse's head from a Carmel gallery, Poitras discovered information that linked Nanka to the Newport Beach crime.
Poitras, who eventually recovered the statue, said that Nanka apparently learned of the investigation and fled the state.
Last week, Nanka was arrested in Salt Lake City, Utah, for allegedly trying to steal a crystal clock from a jewelry store, police said.
Nanka was transferred to Monterey County authorities and will be brought to Orange County to face felony charges after concluding his criminal case in Carmel, police said.