Kurt Lidtke and His Bumbling Band of Art Thieves Cop U.S. Pleas to Stealing Tobey Work

Burglar Jerry H. Christy, alias Nick Natti, has joined his wife, stolen-goods fence Georgia Christy, alias Monica Natti, and their co-conspirator, self-proclaimed criminal mastermind Kurt Lidtke, alias "I'm Bulletproof," in the loser's circle again. With Jerry's plea in federal court Friday, Lidtke's on Thursday, and Georgia's last month, all three have copped to operating a bumbling Seattle/Portland art-theft ring whose main client was an undercover FBI agent--part of the FBI Art Crime Team, originally created after the Gulf War to track down looters of Iraqi antiquities.

Their biggest heist was a Seattle home, burglarized last November of 13 paintings and a sculpture. Three paintings alone--two Morris Graves and a Mark Tobey--were valued at $190,000. The victim's name was never revealed, and court records referring to the theft are sealed.

That heist by Jerry Christy, which Lidtke, 44, orchestrated from his cell, came a month before Lidtke left prison. He served almost three years for nine counts of first-degree theft, having stolen $435,000 in receipts from the sale of paintings consigned at his once-popular Pioneer Square art gallery in 2007.

In prison, he hooked up with Christy, an incurable burglar. Lidtke knew where the paintings were, and Christy knew how to break in and get them. His wife became the go-between, fencing some of the Seattle art to a Portland buyer--a female undercover agent, it turned out. Lidtke and Christy had been out of prison but a few months before the FBI was all over them.

The hapless trio all face sentencing next year. Lidtke can get up to five years in prison for conspiracy and 10 for interstate transportation of stolen property--same as Christy, whose wife (her calls to the FBI agent all were recorded) may see prison time, too.

At least some of the stolen art has been recovered, including the two Graves and the Tobey, as well as a Rembrandt etching. But other pieces are unaccounted for.

Back in 2007, before he was charged with the thefts that led to the collapse of his downtown gallery, Lidtke told the P-I: "I'm bulletproof." He wasn't worried about the law. "Does that sound arrogant? I'm not arrogant," he said. "I'm as humble as humble pie."

And about to be humbled again. His sentencing is Feb. 11.

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