Man gets 4 years in art heist at home of financier Jeffrey Gundlach

A man convicted in the theft of millions of dollars of artwork from the home of a prominent bond trader was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison.

In September 2012, Darren Agee Merager broke into the Santa Monica home of Jeffrey Gundlach, who's considered one of the world's top investment fund managers.

Merager, 44, left with paintings, rare wine, cash, expensive watches and a 2010 Porsche Carrera 4S. He pleaded no contest to the burglarly charge as part of a deal with the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. He was facing more than nine years in state prison because of a history of felony convictions.

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

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

Gundlach had offered a near-record $1.7-million reward for the return of the art collection, which prosecutors said was worth $3.2 million at the time. Gundlach estimated the value at $10 million.

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, Mondrian and Richard Diebenkorn, was recovered.

The suspects were arrested on a tip about two weeks after the theft. The district attorney's office said the tipster did collect a reward, though the final amount was arranged separately through Gundlach.

Gundlach was away on business during the heist, and his office said he was away again during the sentencing Tuesday.


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