One of the biggest art thefts in Los Angeles history has been solved by the country’s only full-time art detective. US authorities have recovered several works of art worth $10 million (£6.3 million). The paintings include works by Diego Rivera and Chagall which have finally been recovered after Detective Donald Hrycyk got a tip this Autumn about a man in Europe called “Darko” who was trying to sell the stolen masterpieces, reports the Los Angeles Times. After an undercover operation involving the FBI and the LAPD, the artworks were recovered, and Raul Espinoza, 45, was arrested. Investigators say he was seeking $700,000 (£447,000) in cash for the paintings.
Donald Hrycyk has been with the LAPD for four decades, and has been a full-time art detective for twenty of those years. The detective is still trying to track down three paintings still missing from the theft. Hrycyk, head of the LAPD’s Art Theft Detail, had recovered more than $100 million (£63.9 million) in stolen property even before discovering the illicit trove of stolen works, according to a Los Angeles Register profile earlier this year.
The 63-year-old Hrycyk is a former homicide detective who joined the art squad after getting tired of dealing with numerous dead bodies, and according to the detective the best part of the job is making sure historic artworks are safe. “My work has lasting value,” he says. “To ultimately find something like that, and to bring it back to people that appreciate it and deserve to have it – as opposed to some thug – is very satisfying.”
‘Darko’ claims that he was no more than a middle man for an unknown person who is in possession of the art and resides in California. Espinoza pleaded not guilty in October and is currently held on $5 million bail (£3.1 million).
The Los Angeles Times reported that Hrycyk sought permission to have a search warrant for Espinoza’s phone so that the identity of original thieves might be revealed.