Who Has The Rights To Stolen Property?

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(File photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images)

(File photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images)

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - If you buy something at a flea market that turns out to be stolen, who keeps it? You or the person from whom it was stolen?

Everyone who goes to a flea market goes in hopes of finding a treasure amongst the junk. And there are periodically stories in the news of someone who buys a canvas at a flea market that looks like a paint by numbers kit which turns out to be actual art.

That’s what happened to a West Virginia woman who had a painting she bought at a flea market turn out to be a Renoir that appraised for $100,000.

What good news! Until the Baltimore Museum of Art got wind of it, and let her know that it was theirs, stolen in 1951 and demanding it to be returned.

What bad news! So what’s the legal word?

She didn’t know she was getting a stolen painting. Which is why she won’t be criminally charged with receiving stolen property which she could have been had she had an inkling that it was stolen. But, under the law, property that is lost, mislaid, or stolen must be returned to its rightful owner.

But she sure has a good story to tell about her excellent antiquing skills. I’m sure that’s great comfort to her.

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