Woman accused of stealing $30,000 worth of antique figurines
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A 57-year-old woman is behind bars amid accusations she stole $30,000 worth of antique figurines from a Houston art gallery in southwest Houston.
Patricia DiCoste was arrested Friday at her Bellaire home in connection to the April Fool's Day theft at Simpson Galleries.
Detectives say DiCoste, a frequent customer of the gallery, stole 18 antique Chinese figurines called Buddhist Lohans. They were made during the Qing Dynasty, which dates to the 16th century, and had made their way into the U.S. before a ban on ivory imports was imposed.
The artifacts, which are valued at $30,000, had been at Simpsons on consignment until the gallery's manager received a call on Monday.
"Simpsons had received word from a third party that these particular items had shown up at another gallery. They confirmed that those were their pieces -- promptly went and looked around their warehouse and could not find the items," said Richard Halberd with Homeland Security Investigations.
Authorities say DiCoste sold the figurines to a high-end consignment shop, which then sold them to a Houston-based auction house for $8,000. They were finally seized Wednesday by special agents with Homeland Security Investigations.
"As it turns out, Simpsons Gallery is one of the places we did outreach on and so it's nice to see the fruits of our outreach coming back to us with a lead," Halberd said.
The ivory statues now are being kept at the Harris County District Attorney's Office until they're returned to the gallery.
Meanwhile, DiCoste is being held at the Harris County Jail, waiting arraignment on a charge of felony theft.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Harris County District Attorney's Office and the Bellaire Police Department.
DiCoste's arrest was conducted in support of Houston HSI's Operation "Hidden Relic" because the figurines are classified as cultural antiquities.
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