NEW YORK — A Queens man has been arrested for allegedly swiping more than $600,000 worth of Native American and African artwork from his employer. He then sold it through a flea market and concocted a story that he obtained the art through storage unit sales.

Here’s the the details from the Department of Justice:

From approximately July 2010 through April 2012, Leon Zinder was employed as an art handler by a New York-based company (the “Company”) that manages an extensive art collection consisting of thousands of individual artworks, including an extensive collection of Native-American and African ethnographic artwork. During that time, Zinder stole at least 13 works of art from facilities maintained by the Company. 

Beginning in approximately September of 2015 through October 2016, Zinder sold, or attempted to sell, the stolen artwork through a consignment relationship with an art dealer who conducted his business through an outdoor flea market in lower Manhattan (the “Dealer”). As part of his efforts to sell the stolen artwork, Zinder falsely claimed he had obtained the works from both the elderly widow of a sheriff in Phoenix, Arizona, and from a storage-unit close-out sale.

In total, Zinder attempted to sell at least 13 works of art through the Dealer, worth more than $600,000. This included at least three items that ZInder had stolen from the Company’s Greenwich, Connecticut, facility and transported to Manhattan: a Fang Reliquary Guardian Head statue valued at approximately $85,000; a Native American mask valued at approximately $75,000; and a Pende mask valued at approximately $5,000.

Eventually, the Dealer became aware that several of the artworks he had helped ZInder to sell had been reported stolen by the Company. At that point, the Dealer contacted the FBI and began assisting in the subsequent investigation, including turning over the majority of the stolen works to the FBI.

Zinder, 48, of Forest Hills, Queens, is charged with one count of interstate sale of stolen property, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the defendant’s gross gain or twice the victim’s gross loss resulting from the defendant’s conduct, whichever is greater.  

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