$10 million worth of paintings, stolen in LA art heist, recovered

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A man has been arrested for trying to sell valuable stolen paintings from one of the largest art heists in Los Angeles history.

Raul Espinoza, 45, was arrested by FBI agents during an undercover operation at a West L.A. hotel in October.

"These things are one of a kind, irreplaceable and have historical and cultural value," said Det. Don Hrycyk of the LAPD's art theft detail.

Authorities recovered nine works of art, valued at $10 million total, but three paintings are still missing.

The paintings were stolen from a home in Encino in 2008 and included Chagall's "Les Paysans" and Diego Rivera's "Mexican Peasant." Police believe the crook or crooks entered through an unlocked kitchen door.

Detectives on Friday spoke about the joint undercover operation involving the FBI's art crime team and the LAPD's art theft detail. Agents say the case was reignited in September, when a tip came in from overseas. It led them to Espinoza.

Special agent Elizabeth Rivas could not mention specifics.

"Any Undercover operation there is danger, you don't know who you are going to be meeting with in some occasions, so the undercover agents are the ones at risk," she said.

Investigators say Espinoza was trying to sell them for $700,000 cash.

Investigators need help finding additional suspects involved in the actual burglary. The FBI is offering at $25,000 reward

"The FBI and LAPD will not give up on any investigation until we have been able to recover the artifacts and bring the people responsible to justice," said Bill Lewis, assistant director with the FBI in Los Angeles.

Espinoza pleaded not guilty on Oct. 27 and is being held on $5 million bail. Espinoza is expected back in court on Jan. 12.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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