LANTANA, FL (NBC News/WCMH) — Scorned lovers. Millions of dollars of missing artwork. It was part of a bizarre investigation to say the least for police in the quiet town of Lantana, Florida.
Now one police officer is finally speaking out about how his team cracked the case.
Nicholas Zoullas, 80, of New York City, kept about 200 pieces of very expensive artwork in a home he bought for his mistress on Hypoluxo Island. After a falling out with his girlfriend, at least $15 million worth of paintings, relics and statues from the home disappeared.
Lantana Police officer Eddie Tavcar says it was like something out of a movie.
“It was overwhelming. An ex-girlfriend, flashy cars, a couple of Bentleys, two Ferraris,” Tavcar told NBC affiliate WPTV-TV. “She was upset. The ride was over. The good life was coming to an end.”
Police tried to get the ex, 43-year old Stacy Cliett, and her new boyfriend, 52-year old Todd Stephens, to turn over the missing items, but they refused to reveal their location. Police eventually tracked the suspects to a warehouse in Florida where the couple had stashed the art.
“We got her in the knick of time because if that U-HAUL full of that artwork would have gone, we probably never would have found it,” Tavcar told WPTV.
Tavcar spent countless hours cataloging all 200 pieces of stolen art, much of it exotic in nature and too graphic to show. The pieces are now heading back to the owner in New York.
Cliett and Stephens both face charges in the case. Their trial date is pending.