MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — A building superintendent who was trusted to care for the art collection of a deceased TriBeCa painter was sentenced to prison Tuesday for stealing the works as the victim's niece tearfully begged him to help her find the missing pieces.
Roxane West said about 450 of the abstract expressionist paintings and drawings made by her aunt, Shirley Almeda West, were taken by a man they both knew for years and trusted, Mihaly Kovacsezics, 62.
She and her aunt were so close to "Mike" Kovacsezics, in fact, that he was at Almeda West's bedside as she was read her last rites.
"He was so close to Shirley and me he was almost like family," West said in a tearful statement to the court Tuesday.
"I relied on him for so much. I trusted him completely."
Prosecutors say the super stole $100,000 in jewelry and paintings from the victim's home at 427 Washington St., near Vestry Street, where Almeda West lived and owned a studio.
After Almeda West died at age 81 in 2010, her niece was entrusted to care for her works. When she was out of town, the super was supposed to look over the paintings, the niece said.
At some point, Kovacsezics moved them from her aunt's loft and told them they were stored in the basement. But they were never found.
West said she's still looking for the pieces, worth about $13,365, and pleaded with Kovacsezics to help her find them. She's also offering a $25,000 reward for the artwork.
"Please help me get Shirley's work back. Please, please, please!" the tearful West said of the art.
While the exact value of the art cannot be known because it was never sold, the sentimental value cannot be overstated, West said.
Kovacsezics was sentenced to three to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of grand larceny and will likely be deported to his native Hungary upon his release, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Charles Solomon said.
Dressed in grey sweats in court on Tuesday, he did not speak when offered the chance.