Pedro Antonio Marcuello and María Elisa Ornelas, the two people accused of trying to sell a stolen Matisse painting in South Beach, were formally charged Wednesday morning in federal court.
Marcuello, a native of Cuba, and Ornelas, from Mexico, tried to sell Odalisque in Red Pants by Henri Matisse to undercover FBI agents on July 17 at the Miami Beach Loews Hotel. According to the arrest affidavit, both knew that the painting was stolen.
Marcuello, who according to his lawyer works as a driver for a home for the elderly, and Ornelas, who according to reports is a real estate agent in Acapulco, were formally charged with possession, transportation and attempting to sell a stolen object.
Both entered not-guilty pleas.
The painting, whose commercial value is around $3 million, was stolen from the Contemporary Art Museum of Caracas in 2002 and replaced with a forgery. It disappeared for 10 years, until Marcuello tried to sell it in Miami Beach last month.
According to the FBI, the painting was in Mexico City, and Ornelas brought it to South Florida a day before Marcuello attempted the sale.
Marcuello and Ornelas face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. The date for their next hearing hasn’t been determined yet.