‘Spider-Man’ Thief Gets 8-Year Prison Sentence for Paris Art Heist

On Monday, the burglar nicknamed “Spider-Man” and his two accomplices in one of the biggest art heists Paris has ever known were sentenced to prison and ordered to pay the city a whopping €104 million ($110 million) fine.

The sum corresponds to the estimated value of the stolen artworks, which are still missing since the 2010 theft.

The Paris criminal court convicted Vjeran Tomic, the notoriously agile thief, of making away with five masterpieces from the city’s Modern Art Museum, including Georges Braque’s Olive Tree near l’Estaque, (1906), Fernand Léger’s Still Life with Candlestick, (1922), Henri Matisse’s Pastoral, (1906), Amedeo Modigliani’s Woman with Fan, (1919), and Pablo Picasso’s Dove with Green Peas, (1911). Tomic was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Fernand Léger, Still Life With Candlestick (1922). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Fernand Léger, Still Life With Candlestick (1922), is one of five paintings stolen by Vjeran Tomic in 2010. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Jean-Michel Corvez, an antiques dealer who is believed to have orchestrated the theft, received a seven-year prison sentence. His home was seized, and he is banned from dealing in antiques for five years.

The second accomplice in the heist, Yonathan Birn, who stored the works but claims that he destroyed them out of fear of getting caught, was given a six-year sentence. According to the Associated Press, Birn, a dealer in luxury timepieces, screamed at the presiding judge. His lawyer, Caroline Toby, called Birn’s sentence “particularly severe.”

The three men were also given individual fines of between $150,000-$200,000, in addition to the $110 million compensation they must pay the city.

Tomic, who has 14 prior convictions to his name, described the rush he had felt when he broke into the museum, with much ease, spending an hour perusing the galleries during the robbery while deciding what to pilfer. He was only hired to steal Léger’s still life, but when he realized the alarm system wasn’t working, he spirited away with four other carefully chosen artworks. He was paid €40,000 for the Léger, while the additional works were stored with Birn.

Police arrested Tomic in May 2011 based on an anonymous tip from a homeless man who had noticed him lingering around the museum in the days leading up to the burglary.

Policemen stand by painting frames outside the Paris' Musee d'Art Moderne (Paris modern art museum) where five works including paintings by modern masters Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso were stolen on May 20, 2010. Photo courtesy BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images.

Policemen stand by painting frames outside the Paris’ Musee d’Art Moderne (Paris modern art museum) where five works including paintings by modern masters Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso were stolen on May 20, 2010. Photo courtesy BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images.

Birn claimed to have panicked when police began investigating in May 2011, breaking the stretchers on which the works were being stored and stuffing them in the garbage. However, both the investigators and Birn’s co-defendants believe the paintings have been smuggled out of France.

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