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Six Charged in Theft of Financier's High-End Paintings

Prosecutors allege family members conspired to help a man steal $3.2 million in pricey goods from Jeffrey Gundlach's Santa Monica home.

A man accused of stealing $3.2 million worth of high-end and rare paintings from the Santa Monica home of financier Jeffrey Gundlach in September and the five people who allegedly stored the loot pleaded not guilty Friday to charges that include first-degree residential burglary and conspiracy.

The six defendants were ordered jailed on $10 million bail while awaiting their next appearance Jan. 18 at the Airport Branch Courthouse in Los Angeles.

Prosecutors allege the theft was the work of 43-year-old Darren Agee Merager. He is accused of breaking into Gundlach's home between Sept. 12 and Sept. 13 to steal the paintings, jewelry and wine.

"Merager then allegedly returned hours later and stole Gundlach’s red 2010 Porsche Carrera 4S at the behest of Jay Jeffrey Nieto, 45," said Deputy District Attorney Alva Lin.

Merager is charged with two counts each of first-degree residential burglary and conspiracy to commit a crime and one count of receiving stolen property. Nieto,  is charged with one count each of first-degree residential burglary, receiving stolen property and being an accessory after the fact and two counts of conspiracy to commit a crime.

Also charged as co-conspirators are Merager’s 68-year-old mother, Brenda Joyce Merager, and two brothers, 29-year-old Wanis George Wahba and his 26-year-old brother, Ely George Wahba. The three allegedly tried to sell and conceal the stolen items. A sixth man, Wilmer Bolosan Cadiz, 40, is charged with conspiracy and receiving stolen items.

Merager, who has multiple prior convictions, is facing more than nine years in state prison if convicted, according to the D.A.'s office.

The CEO of Doubline Capital, Gundlach had offered nearly $2 million in reward money for the safe return of the artwork. Some of the pieces were rare, including a Piet Mondrian painting, "Composition (A) en Rouge et Blanc;" others were by Jasper Johns, Philip Guston and Richard Diebenkorn.

Most of the art was recovered by the police in September from a Pasadena automotive supply store managed by Nieto.

— City News Service contributed to this report.

Glenn E Grab January 05, 2013 at 04:23 PM
what was the connection to the homeowner?..,,,,,,the thief didn't just pick that house at random....
mimi January 05, 2013 at 05:22 PM
glenn - I share your curiosity. There is definitely a missing link.. We may never get an honest answer or any answer.. In any case, I am happy the thieves were caught and the items returned to the rightful owner.
Glenn E Grab January 05, 2013 at 06:14 PM
they'll be ratting out on each other like crazy....should be interesting....Jenna will keep us current, I'm sure
Dan Charney January 05, 2013 at 08:27 PM
no honor among thieves- anyone who's ever dealt with them knows that- the owner was smart of offer a reward larger than they could have fenced them for- I bet one of the lesser thieves turned them in for a piece of it
mimi January 05, 2013 at 09:08 PM
The family that steals together, sticks together. They won't name immediate family members. Non family won't be so lucky. I want to know the name of the fence and his customer.
Glenn E Grab January 07, 2013 at 05:35 PM
there's more to this story than we're hearing.....something closer to home... ...

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