Police recover stolen Taos art, arrest suspect

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Police tracked down $400,000 in stolen art with ties to New Mexico but the case wasn’t the big-time art heist you’d think it would be.

On Dec. 14, five paintings were stolen in Boulder, Colorado, while en route from Los Angeles to Santa Fe. Three of those pieces were painted by members of the Taos Society of Artists, depicting both Taos and Laguna pueblos.

The artwork was stolen from a truck at a hotel. Someone cut a padlock on the truck and made off with the paintings and tools.

After this happened, Coleen Fanning, the advisor to the paintings’ owners, said they were in a race against time. She reached out to auction houses across the U.S. alerting them to the theft.

“Everybody was aware, do not touch these paintings,” she said.

However, Boulder police allege the thief wasn’t even sure of the stolen art’s value. They were able to track it down to another hotel in Lakewood after receiving a tip.

“This person just basically said, ‘hey, I know about this stolen art. I can tell you where it is. You probably want to come down here because there’s other stuff going on also,'” said Deputy Chief Stephen Redfearn, with the Boulder Police Department.

Police got access to the hotel room and found a couple of guns, 23 grams of meth, 2,000 Fentanyl pills, and the stolen art.

“The art appeared to be in very good shape. In fact, it was essentially in the same condition as when it was stolen,” Deputy Chief Redfearn said.

Now, the art owners and their reps are celebrating.

“We were making dinner and it became a dance party,” Fanning said.

Meanwhile, the suspect, Brandon Camacho-Levine, is in jail on a $100,000 bond, facing charges of:

  • Two counts of theft ($100,000-$1,000,000)
  • Four counts of drug distribution/manufacturing
  • Two counts of possession of a weapon by a convicted felon
  • First-degree vehicle trespassing
  • Two counts of theft ($300-$599)
  • Possession of burglary tools
  • Three counts of failure to appear in court
  • Distributing drugs while in possession of a firearm