The manager of an art gallery – whose owner was busted with a $100 million dollar treasure trove of stolen art last year – copped to helping his former boss sell and conceal many of the precious pieces in Manhattan Supreme Court Wednesday.
As part of a plea deal, Aaron Freedman, 41, admitted to arranging the sale, shipment and false paper trails of $35 million in ancient carvings and statues swiped from temples in India and other countries.
"The madness has to stop," said Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos. "The pillaging of the patrimony of a nation must stop."
Freedman worked at the now shuttered Madison Avenue gallery Art of the Past for twenty years and helped Subhash Kapoor, 64, create fake ownership histories and peddle the valuable idols to leading museums and private collectors all over the world.
Kapoor was arrested in Germany and extradited to India in 2012 to face charges of trafficking in sacred idols stolen from religious sites.
A few weeks later, federal agents seized over $100 million dollars worth of rare sculptures from Kapoor's gallery and four Manhattan storage sites.
Freedman admitted he helped Kapoor steal and hide a $15 million sandstone statue stolen from India of the goddess Yakshi gracefully standing beside a tree.
One of the statues linked to Subhash Kapoor.Photo: Robert Miller
The Princeton NJ resident also confessed to selling and shipping a $5 million statue of the Hindu deity Shiva to the National Gallery of Australia in 2007.
The wheelchair bound art crook told Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Charles Solomon that he's suffering from the advanced stages of multiple sclerosis.
"After the onset of my disease, obtaining employment at a reputable gallery or auction house was virtually impossible," he said.
Freedman is cooperating with investigators in their case against Kapoor as he awaits extradition to New York to face possession of stolen property charges.
Bogdanos urged Solomon to accept the plea and to release Freedman on his own recognizance.
"We take these crimes very seriously, and as the office manager for Mr. Kapoor, he was the one who made much of it happen," he said. "On the other hand, one of the things I'm struck by with Mr. Freedman is I believe, he is sincerely and genuinely remorseful and repentant."
Solomon is expected to sentence Freedman in February on six counts of conspiracy and possession of stolen property. It's unclear whether he faces prison time.
"Mr freedman is intent on rectifying the serious mistakes that he made and today is the first concrete step," said defense lawyer Paul Bergman.
Over the last decade, Kapoor and Freedman pulled off the massive scheme by allegedly accepting shipments of stolen antiquities packed among knockoffs.
"The paperwork would say they were all fakes. They used those to get them out of India," a source told the Post.