A 24-year-old man was arraigned in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Friday after police from four East End departments alleged he was responsible for the theft of nearly $600,000 worth of fine art from houses in East Hampton, Southampton, Shelter Island, and Southold.
Angel Giovanni Palencia of Medford, a native of Guatemala, faces charges of second-degree grand larceny and second-degree burglary, felonies, and is being held in Suffolk County jail in Riverside in lieu of $500,000 cash bail.
The Suffolk County district attorney’s office announced last week that it believed Mr. Palencia took paintings, lithographs, a book of French stamps, and a silver tea set from six different houses. Approximately 40 pieces were stolen, and not all have been recovered.
East Hampton Village police kept the investigation quiet, but Southampton Village police released some information on two thefts, one at Joanne Hallingby’s house on Captain’s Neck Lane, the other on Gin Lane, between January and February.
However, it was art from a house on Lily Pond Lane in East Hampton Village that is reported to be the most valuable. In all, police said, it was worth approximately $215,000 and included a painting called “In the Vineyard” by Daniel Ridgeway-Knight worth $140,000. Mr. Palencia allegedly sold the work for $1,500 to a Mineola art dealer.
Twelve paintings taken from the Captain’s Neck Lane house had a combined value of $121,000. A painting from the Gin Lane house was valued at $10,000. The value of a painting from the Shelter Island house was unknown.
Terry Wallace of the Wallace Gallery in East Hampton Village reported yesterday that he had sold two of the missing paintings to the Lily Pond Lane homeowner. That artwork was recovered after an auctioneer in St. Petersburg, Fla., who is a friend, asked Mr. Wallace about them. Although Mr. Wallace and village police declined to name the homeowner, The Star learned from other sources that the house is owned by Richard Parkoff.
The Wallace Gallery paintings, one of a woman knitting in a garden and another of a girl sitting in a chair with an orange, had come to the attention of the Florida auctioneer through an art dealer on the North Fork. A Wallace Gallery tag was on the back of each.
Mr. Palencia was reported to have worked as a carpenter at the Southold house, where the owner reported the theft of a painting worth $4,000. He was allegedly able to enter other houses through unlocked doors and windows. Mr. Spota said detectives found no evidence of forced entry at any of the houses.
Whoever paid $1,500 for a painting as valuable as the Ridgeway-Knight work, Mr. Wallace said, would have “known what the market is.” He said art dealers have a responsibility to check the background of any work that comes through their doors. Expressing a similar opinion, Mr. Spota said he does not believe that Mr. Palencia worked alone. He reported that additional paintings were found at Mr. Palencia’s house that were not those reported missing. Mr. Spota also said that as more seasonal residents head out east this summer, more art will be reported missing.
Mr. Palencia was charged on April 6 with six counts of burglary and one count of grand larceny, felonies, after the North Fork art dealer informed authorities that he was asked to buy the stolen art. According to Mr. Spota, Mr. Palencia had approached the dealer three times. The dealer notified police after the third try. Mr. Spota said the dealer, who asked to remain anonymous, had learned the art had been reported stolen after contacting an appraiser.
At his arraignment on Friday before Judge Stephen Braslow, Mr. Palencia pleaded not guilty to all charges. Each burglary charge carries a penalty of between 31/2 and 15 years’ imprisonment, while the grand larceny charge carries a 5-to-15-year penalty.