When police arrested a Medford carpenter in the spring for taking up to $600,000 in artwork from upscale houses across the East End last winter, few thought he was acting on his own. He was accused of taking 30 works of art and other valuables from homes in Southold, Shelter Island, Southampton and East Hampton during this past January and February.
He was employed by a painting contractor on the North Fork and was a carpenter on Shelter Island.
“Nobody believes that this defendant was working by himself,” Suffolk District Attorney Tom Spota said during a press conference announcing the arrest of 24-year-old Angel Palencia, who was indicted on multiple counts of felony burglary and one grand larceny charge. “He certainly wasn’t running around to houses in East Hampton and looking in windows.”
But in entering a guilty plea on all counts on November 15, Mr. Palencia insisted he had acted alone. He was sentenced on December 14 by County Court Judge Stephen Braslow to six years in prison and five years’ probation.
“It’s possible he did have help with it but there’s nothing we could confirm,” said Southold Town Police Detective Ned Grathwohl, who worked the case. “It could have been just him, but that seems unlikely.”
Mr. Palencia had worked at several of the homes from which art was stolen, police said. There was no evidence of forced entry at any of the burglarized homes and property owners said their windows had been locked and their alarms set. Police linked him to the thefts when a North Fork art dealer, whose name was never revealed, told police he had been contacted by Mr. Palencia, who offered to sell him several pieces. The dealer said he grew suspicious after learning that some of the art had been reported stolen in East Hampton.
While some questions remain unanswered, most of the art has been returned to its owners, the detective said.