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August 13, 1999


- Tiffany glass expert found guilty in window theft
- Artist found guilty in fraud case (Painter is facing 13-year sentence)
- 'Thomas Crown Affair' is taut and colorful (Metropolitan museum wouldn't cooperate with a movie that builds entire scenes around bad antitheft systems)

From: Boylan P


The Orthodox Monastery of Decani, S.E. Kosovo, has now updated its already very extensive web site to detail (with many down-loadable photographs) over 40 Orthodox religious buildings and sites in Kosovo that are reported to have been damaged (or in some cases completely destroyed) since the end of the NATO bombing campaign and arrival of K-FOR in June:
This suggests that there has been very widespread loss of and damage to important Orthodox religious buildings data through reprisals and what is described as terrorist action by the KLA, in marked contrast with the very limited "collateral" damage to a small number of religious sites and buildings during the NATO bombing.
In relation Orthodox Church losses and damage during the earlier Yugoslav civil wars (particularly Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, 1991-95) the illustrated book by Slobodan Mileusnic: "Spiritual Genocide 1991 - 1995" is now available on line in English:
Patrick Boylan

Tiffany glass expert found guilty in window theft

05:17 p.m Aug 12, 1999 Eastern
NEW YORK, Aug 12 (Reuters) - An expert on Tiffany stained glass was convicted on Thursday by a federal jury that found him guilty on all five counts of trafficking in Tiffany windows stolen from cemeteries and mausoleums.
Alastair Duncan, 57, sat slumped in his chair at the defence table as the jury announced the verdict, on the second day of deliberations following a seven-day trial in Manhattan federal court. Duncan, who was indicted May 18, declined comment, but his attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said he was ``bitterly disappointed'' and vowed to appeal the verdict.
Court papers describe Duncan as a leading expert on Louis Comfort Tiffany, the renowned stained-glass craftsman whose windows are features of many churches and mausoleums and can command hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction.
Duncan has been a consultant to Christie's auction, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement organisations. Duncan was found guilty of purchasing a nine-foot Tiffany window stolen from the Salem Fields cemetery on the border of Brooklyn and Queens in New York City. In partnership with a middleman he then sold the window to a buyer in Japan for $219,980, according to government papers.
He was also found guilty of asking the grave robber to find another Tiffany-made mausoleum window for a foreign buyer, and with witness tampering. Sentencing is set for October 27.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.

San Antonio Express

Artist found guilty in fraud case (Painter is facing 13-year sentence)

By Maro Robbins
Express-News Staff Writer
With some fancy brushwork and elaborate tales, painter Charles Messervey blurred the line between artist and con artist. Accused of several hoaxes, including copying other artists' work, claiming it as his own and then reporting the pictures stolen to collect some $4 million in insurance money, Messervey was found guilty Wednesday of five counts of mail fraud and two counts of money laundering. Jurors deliberated less than two hours.
The 36-year-old San Antonian who once described his art as "the threshold of enduring pleasure" faces up to 13 years in prison, said his attorney, Brock Huffman. The swindler once served four months of a five-year sentence in state prison after being convicted in 1986 of forging the deed to a 186-acre ranch by the Medina River.
Although questions lingered about the fire that killed the ranch's previous owner, Messervey was never charged in connection with the blaze, and U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia forbid prosecutors from mentioning the death and the deed during the recent trial. Even without them, authorities had little problem filling seven days of testimony with accusations. They alleged that Messervey, at various times, falsely claimed his car, paintings and prints were stolen, and that he lied about being clubbed by an unknown attacker so he could claim insurance money or restitution funds for crime victims. Prosecutors also brought officials from Cyprus to resurrect allegations he attempted a bogus art-theft insurance swindle on the Mediterranean island in 1990.
In the process, the federal courtroom came to resemble a gallery exhibition of Messervey work. Life-size paintings of couples frolicking under emerald trees and pitch clouds leaned against the wood paneling and beige walls. Elaborately framed landscapes and portraits of turbaned Arabs under turquoise skies lined the jury box. No less colorful than the art was the defendant. A tall, lean man with slicked-back auburn hair and a thin mustache, he looked the part of a viscount.
Deputy marshals took Messervey into custody midway through the trial when he was accused of threatening a government witness during a lunch break.
On the last day of testimony, Messervey ignored the advice of his attorney and took the witness stand. Diagnosed as bipolar, he declared that he was taking enough medication "to knock out five men" and characterized himself as blessed with artistic talent but beset by thieves and thugs.
"Isn't it odd that wherever you go, from Cyprus to San Antonio, someone steals your insured artwork?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Stick asked Messervey.
"What insured artwork?" Messervey replied, as if he momentarily forgot days of testimony about his paintings and policies. Although relatively unknown in art markets, Messervey cultivated loyal admirers, largely from Hondo, where he had taught painting. Among those students was LaRue Hedrick, 83, who encouraged her teacher to make fine prints of his paintings and invested some $60,000 in the project before the prints were reported stolen in 1996.
Hedrick said she recognized Messervey's enormous talent while gazing on one of his religious paintings. "It looked like Christ reached out and touched me and said, 'This man is a genius. Do something to help him,'" she testified. Lawyer Patrick Stolmeier, who sued the insurance company that refused to pay the painter's claim for stolen prints he valued at $4 million, also backed Messervey. Stolmeier depicted prosecutors as the tools of insurance companies and claimed that the civil case, which was put on hold until after the criminal trial, would have vindicated Messervey and led to an enormous verdict - perhaps nearing $27 million. Messervey, according to prosecutors, did his most imaginative work with insurance policies.
An insurance adjuster from Cyprus testified that Messervey in 1989 claimed to own two paintings by the 19th-century French artist Pierre Auguste Cot, which bear the same name as Cot pictures that have hung for more than 100 years in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Messervey reported them stolen from him three months after he insured them for more than $1 million. Insurers considered the claim false, but Messervey left the country and was not charged by U.S. authorities in connection with the incident. His conviction Wednesday stems from three schemes, all of which he denied.
Prosecutors said he reported a pickup stolen in 1993, a week after buying an insurance policy. He was paid some $15,000, including rental fees, before a Bexar County Sheriff's investigator, alerted by a tipster, reported finding the pickup parked near Messervey's apartment.
Staff writer Karisa King contributed to this story.

(Christian Science Monitor)

'Thomas Crown Affair' is taut and colorful

(Metropolitan museum wouldn't cooperate with a movie that builds entire scenes around bad antitheft systems)
David Sterritt
One of our subscribers working for an art newspaper would like to
read Museum Security Mailinglist readers' comments on this film.
Ton Cremers
The Thomas Crown Affair, adapted from a 1968 thriller of the same title. Fresh from starring in two actual Bond pictures, Pierce Brosnan gives the title character as much glamour and allure as Agent 007 himself has ever projected. True, he quickly turns out to be the villain, but that's just a detail. He's the one we're supposed to root for, even if we're also rooting for the gorgeous sleuth hot on his trail.
Treading much the same turf as Sean Connery in "Entrapment" a few months ago, Brosnan plays a charming gentleman who just happens to be an incorrigible art thief. His latest acquisition is an insanely valuable Monet painting, which he's heisted from New York's inimitable Metropolitan Museum of Art - cleverly imitated on a Hollywood sound stage, incidentally, since the real museum wouldn't cooperate with a movie that builds entire scenes around bad antitheft systems. It looks as if he's successfully pulled off the job, but then that gorgeous sleuth shows up, figuring out his secrets even as she falls in love with him.
The new "Thomas Crown" is a flighty affair, but it's colorfully acted and tautly directed by John McTiernan, who makes it look almost as handsome as the paintings that decorate the backgrounds. The season isn't likely to bring a better Bondian entertainment.

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