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Stolen artwork recovered in Chicago

Jeremy Gorner
Tribune reporter

CHICAGO, Ill. — Chicago police found a reported $100,000 worth of stolen artwork Monday night in a van on the Far South Side in connection with an investigation into attempted gun transactions involving gang members in the area.

Members of the Calumet Area gang team learned of the stolen artwork, which was taken during a burglary at a storage facility in Lincolnwood, while questioning a gang member from Cicero who was arrested last week for trying to sell guns to gang members on Chicago's Far South Side, police said. Police could not say when the burglary occurred.

The artwork, which consisted of eight paintings, was found in a van outside the home of Tirnell Williams, one of the burglary suspects, in the 11500 block of South Stewart Avenue in the city's West Pullman neighborhood, said Sgt. Robert Belczak of the gang team.

Williams, 31, and Joseph Saleski, 18, of the 4900 block of West Roosevelt Road, Cicero, were charged with felony burglary, but Belczak said his team learned of the artwork's whereabouts through an "informant" about 8 p.m. Monday. The artwork was recovered by 11 p.m.

Last week, the gang team received information that Saleski, a suspected Cicero gang member, was trying to sell guns to gang members in neighborhoods on Chicago's Far South Side, Belczak said.

Police then executed a search warrant at his Cicero residence and confiscated three handguns, three rifles and a sawed-off shotgun. Police also arrested another man living in the building, Javier Mendoza, 27, who was then charged for having one of the guns in his possession, Belczak said.

In connection with the gun investigation, Belczak said, Saleski was charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon and two misdemeanors--gun possession without a Firearm Owner's Identification Card and possession of ammunition without a Firearm Owner's Identification Card.

The paintings and the some of the guns were stolen from storage lockers in the Lincolnwood storage facility.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Tribune

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