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250 oil paintings stolen from an artist’s garage

In an unusual heist, hundreds of paintings have been stolen from Laguna artist John Cosby’s garage — and police want Lagunans to be on the lookout for them.

Laguna Beach police said that about 250 original, museum-quality framed oil paintings valued at $750,000 — or $3,000 per painting — were taken from the garage between April 23 and 29, while Cosby was in South Carolina. Two bicycles and some potted plants were also taken, Cosby said.

“Laguna is no stranger to art-related thefts because of its background, but a theft of this much art in one incident is rare,” said Sgt. Darin Lenyi of the Laguna Beach Police Department.

Cosby said that the collection of art, which includes works from the past several decades, represents approximately three years of continuous painting.

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Cosby says the paintings could be taken to Mexico to be sold, and he has put out the word to friends south of the border to be on the lookout there.

Cosby had just moved into the home earlier this year.

He said neighbors had noticed a truck backed into his driveway in the middle of the day for several hours midweek.

When Cosby returned home from his trip, he noticed a potted plant was missing and was surprised.

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“I wondered, ‘Who would want a plant?’” he said.

He went into his garage the following morning, where he found that a microwave, tools and other items were still there, but bikes belonging to Cosby and his son — and all but three unframed paintings — were missing.

Cosby had recently moved the paintings from his studio in Laguna Canyon to his South Laguna home, and had left the garage’s side door unlocked, he said.

“I’m a trusting person,” he said.

He added that very few people knew of the move, and that detectives were speaking with those who did.

“Police are following up some investigative leads,” Lenyi confirmed.

Residents are asked to be on the lookout for the paintings, which have distinctive markings.

Many of the paintings have the initials “JC” and a five-digit serial number on their backs. The majority depict landscapes, figures and architecture; most are framed in gold.

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Some of the paintings were by his grandmother, and others were original illustrations for In’N’Out Burger.

Cosby’s insurer has denied his claim for the artwork, as the paintings were at a residence rather than a professional storage facility.

The stolen bicycles were described as a GT metallic silver, titanium 20-speed with blue handlebar tape and a red 18-speed mountain bike.

Cosby, a frequent traveler, was born in Hollywood and learned at the knee of his oil-painting grandmother.

After working for presidents Nixon and Ford and viewing great works of art around the world, he began his own art career while sailing on the East Coast.

Cosby is one of the founding board members of the Laguna Plein Air Painters Assn., an artist member of the California Art Club and an artist member of the Oil Painters of America.

He is currently part of a three-man show at the Bakersfield Museum, and held a one-man show at Laguna’s Pacific Edge Gallery in the early part of the year.

Anyone with information or who would like to discuss the case may contact Det. Debbie Kelso at (949) 497-0371.

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