Thief attempts to steal Picasso, Warhol paintings from Arizona art gallery

Jan 9, 2024, 1:51 PM

An attempted art heist at the American Fine Art Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, ends with a dramati...

An attempted art heist at the American Fine Art Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, ends with a dramatic rooftop takedown of a suspect trying to make off with a haul of high-end artwork, including some of the biggest names in the world of art. (KPHO)


(CNN) — An attempted art heist in Scottsdale, Arizona ended with a dramatic rooftop takedown of a suspect trying to make off with a haul of high-end artwork, including some of the biggest names in the world of art. While police made the arrest, one piece is still missing.

Police say 32-year-old Harpreet Singh was attempting to steal seven pieces by artists including Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. Initial reports valued the pieces at $250,000, but the gallery director now believes it could’ve been a multimillion-dollar heist.

From outside the American Fine Art Gallery near Scottsdale and Indian School Roads, you wouldn’t know that there are empty spots on their studio walls. “Definitely gets the gears turning into why anybody would take that risk,” said Phillip Payne, an artist and the owner of Anticus Fine Art, just across the street from where the attempted burglary happened Sunday.

The signs on the building allude to artwork by big-name artists like Banksy and Warhol, artists that may have attracted Singh, who was accused of removing seven paintings from the walls of the gallery Sunday. “I was actually here at 5 a.m., watching it all go down. I saw the guy on the roof, and so it was an action-packed morning,” Payne said.

Access inside the Arizona art gallery

Singh is believed to have entered the gallery through an emergency access ladder, triggering an alarm system. He was eventually arrested on the roof, where police recovered clothing, including a face mask and gloves and even a small drill, flashlight, and a glass-break tool. “We think it was more of a targeted type of thing,” said DJ Payne, a gallery assistant at Legacy Gallery. “They knew what they were going for and they went there for that.”

Despite the news, other art galleries nearby are not on high alert, saying with high-priced items come high-priced alarm systems. “People put their heart and souls into creating these pieces. It sometimes takes 2 to 3 years to create a single piece, so making sure we’re protecting the artists’ livelihood. We put a lot into making sure things are locked down and we have cameras and security systems,” said Payne.

“Well-thought-out operation”

Former FBI agent Jim Egelston describes this as a well-thought-out operation. “Just to attempt a theft of an art gallery, to me indicates some level of sophistication,” he said.

It’s led him to believe there could be more to this story. “Perhaps there was a buyer already in line for the pieces of art that were stolen. It would be very difficult to pawn items of priceless art that are very unique, it would be hard to sell those online,” Egelston said.

Singh is facing several felonies, including burglary, a crime he’s already been convicted of out of California. In his first court appearance on Monday morning, he asked the judge for a reduction in his bond. Due to his criminal record, the judge chose to keep it at $50,000.

With an original Keith Haring piece still missing, Scottsdale Police are asking anyone with information to come forward.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

FILE: The University of Wyoming campus sign with the Wyoming Union in the background Friday March 2...

Mead Gruver

Highway crash in Colorado kills three University of Wyoming swimmers

A single-vehicle wreck on a highway in northern Colorado killed three members of the University of Wyoming swimming and diving team.

3 hours ago

This image released by the U.S. Department of Justice in an FBI affidavit filed in U.S. District Co...

Denise Lavoie and Matthew Barakat, Associated Press

4 charged in transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons. Two SEALs died in intercepting the ship

Four foreign nationals have been charged with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons after U.S. naval forces interdicted a vessel in the Arabian Sea last month.

17 hours ago

This image provided by the Denver Police Department shows Miles Harford. Denver police are asking f...

Associated Press

Denver police search a former funeral home owner who kept the cremated remains of at least 30 people

Denver police are asking for the public's help in finding a former funeral home owner who they say kept a woman's body in a hearse for two years and also kept the cremated remains of at least 30 people.

19 hours ago

FILE - President Joe Biden's dog Commander looks out from the balcony during a pardoning ceremony f...

Camila DeChalus and Betsy Klein, CNN

Bidens’ dog, Commander, bit Secret Service personnel in at least 24 incidents, records show

The new 24 incidents do not include the other incidents that were previously reported involving executive residence staff and other White House workers.

19 hours ago

A humpback whale breaches near Bering Island off Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. The unique structure...

Amarachi Orie, CNN

Mystery of whale song unraveled by scientists, study says

Whale songs are one of the most mysterious sounds to have been heard reverberating through the ocean.

20 hours ago

A person looking at the NVIDIA Grace Hopper superchip...

Nicole Goodkind, CNN

S&P 500 and Dow hit new highs as Nvidia fervor takes hold of Wall Street

Stocks soared to new highs on Thursday after Nvidia, the third largest company on Wall Street, blew past earnings expectations and bolstered investor optimism on Wall Street.

20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Thief attempts to steal Picasso, Warhol paintings from Arizona art gallery