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Man sentenced for art theft from bond trader Jeffrey Gundlach's home

Crime, Law and JusticeCrimeTheftArts and CultureBondsCadiz Incorporated

A man convicted in the theft of millions of dollars of artwork from the Santa Monica home of a prominent bond trader has been sentenced to four years in prison.

Darren Agee Merager broke into the home of Jeffrey Gundlach — considered one of the world's top investment fund managers — in September 2012 and made off with paintings, rare wine, watches and a 2010 Porsche Carrera 4S, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

At the time, prosecutors put the value of the stolen art at $3.2 million. Gundlach, who pegged the art's worth at closer to $10 million, offered a near-record reward of $1.7 million for its return.

Gundlach offered $1 million alone for the return of a Piet Mondrian painting called "Composition (A) En Rouge et Blanc."

All of the art, including works by Jasper Johns, Joseph Cornell and Richard Diebenkorn, was recovered.

Prosecutors originally alleged that Merager, 44, conspired with several others, including his 69-year-old mother, Brenda Merager, and the owner of an East Pasadena audio-parts shop who helped stash some pieces. Charges against Brenda Merager were eventually dropped. But the shop's owner, Jay Nieto, and Wilmer Cadiz each pleaded no contest to one count of receiving stolen property and were sentenced to three years' probation. Darren Merager was sentenced Tuesday.

A pair of brothers also pleaded no contest last year in connection to the theft — Wanis George Wahba, 30, to receiving stolen property, and Ely George Wahba, 27, to a charge of accessory after the fact. They're scheduled to be sentenced March 20.

The suspects were arrested on a tip about two weeks after the theft. Prosecutors said two people collected a reward, though the final amount was arranged separately through Gundlach, who was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

paresh.dave@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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