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'Art lover' busted in heist

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A security guard at a Long Island art show was busted for pilfering four paintings - not to sell, but to hang in his living room and give as gifts to his lover, authorities said yesterday.

Emerson Estaneda's passion for art - not money - inspired him to pull off the $4,100 art heist, said Nassau Detective Lt. Arthur McLoughlin.

"He didn't steal them to sell," McLoughlin said. "He kept one that he liked - it was hanging in the house, in his living room."

McLoughlin said he did not know why Estaneda suddenly resorted to art theft. "He doesn't seem to have a history of being an art lover," McLoughlin said.

The 24-year-old Hempstead man was a security guard at an art gallery at the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury last November.

After receiving a tip, detectives discovered one of the paintings, "On the Mend," by artist Raymond La Mantia, on the wall of Estaneda's home at 35 Lincoln Blvd. on Wednesday night and busted him.

Estaneda then led police to his former girlfriend's home in East Meadow, where the three other paintings - "Art Deco Diva 1," by Kenneth Francis Dewey, "The Masquerade," by high-school student Gina Figalore, and a nude painting by a fourth artist - were hanging.

"He gave them to her as a gift," McLoughlin said. "She was unaware that they were stolen."

Estaneda was charged with third-degree grand larceny.

"For him to be that taken by a piece of mine, to risk all that - I guess I should be flattered," La Mantia told The Post.

The artist said the work is "a surreal painting of a large bronze bust of a head in a lake, with a tranquil background."

Dewey and La Mantia are professional artists, unlike Figalore.

Estaneda worked for Allied Security, where officials declined to comment - except to say he had been fired.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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