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3rd Suspect Arrested in Theft of Paintings

August 14, 1993|DAVID COLKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The owner of the Pancake Heaven restaurant in San Fernando was arrested Friday morning and charged with trying to sell stolen artworks worth about $9 million, becoming the third person arrested in connection with the theft.

Vasilios Marmaras, 36, of Northridge was apprehended at the restaurant without incident and taken into custody, said Los Angeles Police Detective Bill Martin.

It was the third arrest in connection with the nine paintings--including a Picasso, Degas and Chagall--which disappeared from a storage locker in Northridge last year. Peter MacKenzie, 43, a Chatsworth carpenter, and Alan McArthur, 38, a Granada Hills electrician and motorcycle buff, were arrested Tuesday and charged with the theft.

Martin said that Marmaras tried to sell the nine paintings about two weeks ago. "The figure we have is that he originally tried to sell them for $3.5 million," said Martin, who is the Police Department's main art theft investigator. "Marmaras was an acquaintance of the two men."

Marmaras had no known connections with the art world, Martin said, and was not trying to sell the works to a legitimate art dealer.

The first two arrests came in the wake of a tip to investigators that buyers were being sought for the paintings, Martin said. In addition to the Los Angeles Police Department, the FBI was involved in the investigation.

Marmaras' bail, set at $10,000, was paid Friday afternoon and he was released. MacKenzie and McArthur remain in jail, each held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

The paintings are owned by an 85-year-old Reseda woman who had inherited them from her socialite sister. She had kept them in a locker at a Public Storage warehouse for 13 years because she didn't feel she had room for them in her apartment.

When she made a rare visit to the storage company Feb. 5, 1992, to check on her locker, she discovered the paintings were missing. The works were not insured.

Eight of the paintings were found, FBI agents said on Tuesday, inside a wall in MacKenzie's home and the ninth was found in McArthur's bedroom.

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