Six people have been charged
in connection with the theft of $3.2 million in paintings, wine, jewelry and a car from financier Jeffrey Gundlach’s Santa Monica home in September.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has charged Darren Agee Merager, 43, and Jay Jeffrey Nieto, 45, with multiple counts, including first-degree residential burglary, conspiracy and receiving stolen property, district attorney spokeswoman Jane Robison said.
Charged as co-conspirators are Merager’s 68-year-old mother, Brenda Joyce Merager, and two brothers, Wanis George Wahba, 29, and Ely George Wahba, 26, Robison said. The three allegedly tried to sell and conceal the stolen items, prosecutors say. In addition, Wilmer Bolosan Cadiz, 40, has been charged with conspiracy and receiving stolen items.
Prosecutors say Darren Merager allegedly broke into Gundlach’s home in the 500 block of 12th Street between Sept. 12 and 13 and stole valuable artwork, jewelry and wine. The art pieces stolen included works by Piet Mondrian, Jasper Johns, Guy Rose and Frank Stella.
Merager then allegedly returned hours later and stole Gundlach’s 2010 Porsche Carrera 4S at the behest of Nieto, said Deputy District Attorney Alva Lin.
Gundlach, the founder of investment firm Doubleline Capital who is recognized as a leading expert in bond and fixed income investments, offered a reward of more than $1 million for the recovery of some of the noted artworks in his collection.
Nieto was arrested in September after he allegedly helped conceal the stolen art and other items at his Pasadena store, Al & Ed’s Autosound, police said. With the assistance of Pasadena police, Santa Monica investigators served a search warrant at the Pasadena store, where officers recovered most of the paintings reported missing in the theft, Santa Monica police Sgt. Richard Lewis said.
As the investigation continued, Santa Monica investigators received additional information that led them to a residence in the city of San Gabriel, where they arrested Cadiz, Lewis said. Cadiz was allegedly in possession of four of the stolen paintings from Gundlach’s residence at the time of the arrest, Lewis said.
Police later recovered the last painting taken in the theft after they learned it had been transported to a home in Glendale.
Prosecutors asked that bail for each of the six defendants be set at $10 million.
Merager, who has multiple prior convictions, is facing more than nine years in state prison if convicted, Robison said.