VERO BEACH — The suspected art thief from Los Angeles that Indian River County Sheriff’s deputies tried to capture last week has turned himself in, according to authorities. The Sheriff’s Office said Friday the suspect had turned himself in to authorities in California Thursday.Both the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office and the Los Angeles Police Department were searching for Matthew Taylor Nelson, a suspected art thief known to pass himself off as an art dealer. A spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department said Friday he was unaware Nelson had turned himself in and had no record of it.Nelson owns property in Indian River County and is known to frequent businesses on the barrier island, according to authorities. He was wanted on a warrant issued for grand theft of more than $400,000 and for dealing in stolen property.
On Friday, Aug. 28, the Sheriff’s Office thought it had tracked Nelson to a condominium in The Spires on the island. However, when they entered the home, they found the suspect’s 76-year-old mother, Patricia Taylor.
Nelson and his mother own a total of three properties on the beachside, plus he has access to the condo at The Spires, which is rented under his 18-year-old girlfriend’s name. The girlfriend was located driving Nelson’s Mercedes SUV at a South County residence and questioned.
Pictured here is a Johann Mertz oil painting circa 1847 valued at $20,000, one of the pieces of art allegedly stolen by Nelson. The artwork, which included a later-recovered $236,000 Granville Redmond painting, was stolen over a two-year period from 2004 to 2006.
According to the LAPD “suspect wanted” posting, Nelson had been working as an art dealer and would visit art galleries to obtain art on consignment. After gaining access and earning the trust of gallery staff, he would then use that access to steal artwork that was in storage.
Another painting listed on the LAPD Web site as one police have linked to Nelson is a Lucien Frank oil painting entitled “Park Scene, Paris,” which is worth at least $20,000.
Lt. Richard Lane, of the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office, said the grand theft charges against him are for stealing property of substantial value. Lane said there were no thefts of high-end artwork reported on the barrier island while Nelson was known to be in the area.The video below documents the hunt for Nelson on the barrier island in Vero Beach last week by the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office.
Reporter Lisa Zahner contributed to this report.