Seven months after the theft of 250 paintings from Laguna artist John Cosby, two suspects are in jail thanks to “An Honest Living” and a Texas art collector.
“I really didn’t think I would see [the paintings] again,” an elated Cosby said. “I thought maybe I would see a few of them someday on auction or at the flea markets.”
Laguna Beach Police detectives arrested Michael Alan Voss, 49, and Thomas Edward Hendricks, 55, both of Laguna Niguel. Voss was arrested Nov. 7; Hendricks was taken into custody the following day.
Another warrant was served Oct. 27 on Hendricks for assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse, stemming from the beating of a 70-year-old man on Third Street. He was considered a fugitive until his apprehension for the Cosby theft, Laguna Beach police said.
Voss and Hendricks were alleged to have been involved in the South Laguna heist of about $750,000 worth of paintings from Cosby’s garage, police said.
“There were a lot of irreplaceable pieces,” Cosby said. “To get it all back is like a dream come true. I’m thrilled.”
Most dear to his heart were several paintings by his grandmother, who taught him her art when he was a young boy. Others included original illustrations for In’N’Out Burger.
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 represented by Redfern Gallery.
Cosby, along with his friends, colleagues and Laguna Beach police, had been scouring websites and keeping an ear to the ground for any mention of the paintings, which Cosby once guessed would be taken to Mexico and sold.
Instead, they were found throughout South Orange County.
“They were just around the corner,” Cosby said.
One of Cosby’s collectors in Texas located a missing painting on eBay.
The stolen painting, ironically named “An Honest Living,” was listed in October with an opening bid of $1,500 or a “Buy It Now” price of $2,000 — less than half of Cosby’s retail asking price.
That piqued the collector’s curiosity, so they contacted the artist, Cosby said.
When the painting matched Cosby’s inventory as being one of the stolen pieces, he contacted Laguna Beach Police Det. Debbie Kelso, who began tracking the eBay seller, who used the username “son2fitness2.”
“Detective Kelso tracked down the guy who put it on there,” Cosby said. “He ratted out his roommate, who stole them, because he didn’t want to take the rap.”
Cosby said the suspect originally lied to police about where he acquired the work.
“At first the guy told the detective that he had bought the painting that he put on eBay from some guy walking down the beach,” Cosby said.
They then obtained evidence that led to the discovery and seizure of the paintings in an Irvine storage facility.
Police also retrieved paintings from the suspects’ shared residence and Hendricks’ car, and Cosby said more paintings were found in a rented unit above the Boom Boom Room.
Cosby said one of the suspects is related to someone who used to live in his South Laguna home. Cosby did not know either of the suspects personally.
Voss was arrested without incident at his home on suspicion of possession of stolen property, a felony.
He told police about his involvement with Hendricks; Cosby’s work hung on the walls of their shared home.
Hendricks was arrested the next day after attempting to flee detectives who surrounded the home, Cosby said.
Hendricks and Voss pleaded not guilty to charges of receiving stolen property and denied theft charges. Hendricks was arraigned Tuesday; he also pleaded not guilty to charges related to the assault.
He is being held on $815,000 bail, said Damon Micalizzi, Orange County Sherifff’s director of public and community relations.
A pretrial is scheduled for Wednesday, with a preliminary hearing slated for Nov. 26.
Voss, who was arraigned Nov. 8, is being held in custody after on $50,000 bail, Micalizzi said. His next appearance will be Wednesday.
“It all ended as well as I could have hoped for,” Cosby said. “And [the suspects] paid my storage fees for six months.”