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Brooklyn Gallery Owner Speaks Out About Stolen Artwork As Search For Paintings Continues

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The owner of an art gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was on a mission this week to find two portraits that were stolen in the middle of a gallery show.

As CBS 2's Janelle Burrell reported, Sean Leonard testified in court Wednesday about the disappearance of the portraits of Nelson Mandela and Snoop Dogg, and a portrait of late New York artist Jean-Michel Basquiat that has already been recovered.

Stolen Artwork
Paintings of Snoop Dog (L) and Nelson Mandela (R) by late New York City artist Jean-Michel Basquiat that were allegedly stolen from a gallery in Brooklyn. (credit: Sean Leonard/CBS 2)

Leonard said he was eager to see the suspect who allegedly stole nearly $30,000 of artwork from his Williamsburg gallery, punished.

"I just hope that justice is served," Leonard said. "That sounds cliché, but that's what I'm hoping for."

Leonard was optimistic as he headed into Brooklyn Supreme Court Wednesday to testify before a grand jury about the case.

This past Saturday night, Leonard, owner of the Cotton Candy Machine art gallery at 235 South 1st St. in Brooklyn, was hosting a show for artist friend Amar Stewart when he said he noticed his storage room door ajar and three paintings missing.

He ran outside where he said he saw a man with the Basquiat portrait nearby. That was when he grabbed the artwork and began running after the suspect, now identified by police as Louis Lassalle of Queens.

"I literally had to take every bit of this into my own hands," Leonard said. "I ran out followed the guy. I chased him stuck with him until 911 showed up."

Brooklyn Stolen Painting Recovered
Gallery owner Sean Leonard poses with NYPD officers after he recovered a painting that was allegedly stolen from his gallery in Brooklyn. (Credit: Sean Leonard)

Lassalle was arrested by police, allegedly as he tried to escape in a taxi. And Leonard said he has proof that Lassalle and his buddies were in on the art heist together.

He provided a photo where a man identified as Lassalle appears along with at least three others – who Leonard said conspired to steal the Basquiat painting that was recovered, and the Mandela and Snoop Dogg paintings from a back storage room.

Alleged Williamsburg Art Theft Suspects
Art gallery owner Sean Leonard claims these men are responsible for the theft of three artworks from his Cotton Candy Machine Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (Credit: Sean Leonard)

The Basquiat portrait was worth $10,000, while the Mandela and Snoop Dogg portraits were each worth $8,000, Leonard said.

"What I hope most is that he's giving up the names of those other suspects," Leonard said.

Leonard hoped an indictment from a grand jury will send Lassalle to jail and force him to talk. The artis is now on a quest to collect as much evidence as possible for his case.

"I went from store to store and restaurant to restaurant getting the surveillance video myself, because no one else is going to get that," he said. "I just hope that he pays the price for what he's done."

Suspect Lassalle has been released from custody on a recognizance bond. He was charged with third-degree grand larceny and was due back in court in May.

Leonard pleaded for anyone with information to about the whereabouts of the two missing paintings, or other men involved, to contact police.

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