Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Thief Sentenced to Prison

 

A man convicted in the theft of millions of dollars' worth of paintings, wine, jewelry and a Porsche from a Santa Monica home has been sentenced to four years in state prison.

Darren Merager, 44, was sentenced Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported. He had pleaded no contest to a burglary charge as part of a deal with the district attorney's office. He was facing more than nine years in prison because of a history of felony convictions.

Prosecutors said Merager broke into financier Jeffrey Gundlach's home while Gundlach was away on business in September 2012 and took paintings by artists like Jasper Johns and Richard Diebenkorn. Also taken was one work by Piet Mondrian that spurred a million-dollar reward offer. All of the art was recovered.

Gundlach had offered a near-record $1.7-million reward for the return of the art collection, which prosecutors said was worth $3.2 million at the time. Gundlach estimated the value at $10 million.

Authorities said Merager returned to steal the 2010 Porsche Carrera 4S at the behest of a co-conspirator.

Prosecutors originally alleged that Merager conspired with several others, including his 69-year-old mother, Brenda Merager, although charges against her were eventually dropped. Jay Nieto and Wilmer Cadiz each pleaded no contest to one count of receiving stolen property. They were each sentenced to three years of probation.

A pair of brothers - 30-year-old Wanis George Wahba and 27-year-old Ely George Wahba - also entered pleas last year. Wanis Wahba pleaded no contest to receiving stolen property and Ely Wahba pleaded no contest to a charge of being an accessory after the fact. They're scheduled to be sentenced March 20.

 

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