A man has been arrested on suspicion of stealing a painting from a Tucson gallery after he reportedly returned days later asking for a receipt.
The since-recovered work, “Freedom from Fear: Reprise,” by Tempe artist Cheryl Berech, was stolen from the Etherton Gallery on Jan. 17. The painting is valued at $1,500.
Phillip Castro, 44, was arrested 10 days after the painting was stolen when he returned to ask for a receipt for the 13-by-17-inch oil on canvas, said Daphne Srinivasan, a member of the gallery’s staff.
Staff members recognized him from images captured on the gallery’s security cameras.
“As soon as we realized who he was, we called the police and acted as though we were trying to accommodate him,” Srinivasan said. “We kept it low-key. We didn’t raise the fact that it had been stolen.”
The staff used several delaying tactics to keep Castro there until police arrived, claiming they couldn’t find the receipt and that the computer system was slow.
When Tucson police arrived, they took Castro into custody without incident, Srinivasan said.
Two hours later, the painting had been recovered and returned to the gallery.
The painting is part of the “In This Together” exhibit organized by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. It celebrates the ACLU’s 60 years in the state and will travel throughout Arizona.
The exhibit will be at the Etherton Gallery, 135 S. Sixth Ave., through Feb. 2.
Its next stop is the Arizona History Museum, 949 E. 2nd St., where it will be on display from Feb. 6 through March 6.