A Greek man has pleaded not guilty to stealing a Salvador Dali painting from a New York gallery. But Phivos Istavrioglou may have his work cut out for him trying to prove his innocence. Police allege the bumbling international art thief swiped Dali's “Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio” from the Venus Over Manhattan gallery in full view of security cameras, the BBC reported.
Fingerprints belonging to Istavrioglou were found at the scene of the crime. According to the Independent, the 29-year-old allegedly stashed the painting – worth $150,000 – in a shopping bag and flew back to Athens.
He later mailed it back to the gallery from a fake address.
"It was almost surreal how this theft was committed – a thief is accused of putting a valuable Salvador Dali drawing into a shopping bag in the middle of the afternoon, in full view of surveillance cameras," District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr told a Manhattan court on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.
Istavrioglou was detained at New York's John F Kennedy airport on Saturday after police tricked him into returning to the U.S.
He told detectives during questioning that "he knew the theft would catch up with him and wants to make [the] situation right,” the BBC reported.