11/01/2012 05:31 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2013

Stolen Matisse Painting: Pair Plead Guilty To Selling 'Odalisque In Red Pants' In Miami (PHOTO)

Sofia Imber Contemporary Art Museum / AP

The man and woman accused of selling a stolen Henri Matisse painting on Miami's black market have pled guilty.

Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman of Miami and Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo of Mexico City admitted selling the legendary artist's 1925 painting "Odalisque in Red Pants" to FBI agents during a sting on South Beach in July.

The pair acknowledged they knew the $3 million painting had been stolen before making a deal to sell it to an undercover officer for $740,000 at the oceanfront Loew's Hotel, prosecutors had alleged. Once the price was agreed upon, Ornelas carried the painting in a red tube from Mexico through Miami International Airport before she and Marcuello met the undercover agents to transfer possession.

The pair were arrested after the sale was made, bringing an end of sorts to one of the most baffling capers in the art world. The painting has been missing from Venezuela's Sofia Imber Contemporary Art Museum since at least 2002, having famously been swapped for a fake that went unnoticed for what some speculate may have been years.

The details of its theft remain a mystery despite intense work from Interpol, the FBI, and police in France and Spain, and the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports Guzman and Lazo said in court that they were told museum employees hung the forgery in place of the original (see the real and fake versions of "Odalisque" above).

Despite its recovery, the painting has not been given back Venezuela. In August, over a dozen topless women donning only red pants congregated in front of the museum in Caracas to demand its return as Venezuelan attorney general Luisa Ortega's attempts to reach US officials have reportedly gone unrecognized, according to the Guardian.

BBC News reports Guzman faces 10 years in prison for conspiracy to transport and sell stolen property, while Lazo faces five years. The pair are scheduled to be sentenced in January in Miami federal court.



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