Former Marcos aide sentenced up to 6 years for attempted sale of stolen art

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Jan. 13, 2014

New York City – Vilma Bautista, former secretary to former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos was sentenced up to six years in a New York state prison Monday morning.

The 75-year-old former Marcos aide was convicted back in November for conspiracy and tax fraud as a result of the sale or attempted sale of four valuable paintings owned by the former First Lady – including a $32 million Claude Monet.

Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Renee White said, “The evidence clearly shows Miss Bautista stole properties from the Philippine government and Imelda Marcos.”

Court records show that Bautista conspired with two relatives to sell artwork by Monet, Sisley and other well known artists. She also failed to report her actual income on her New York state and New York City tax returns.

Bautista reported only about $5,000 in income on the year she received payment for the Monet painting.

The New York Post reported that Bautista’s relatives Chaiyot Jansen Navalaksana, 37, and Pongsak Navalaksana, 40, were found guilty of illegally conspiring to sell the stolen paintings but the two fled to Thailand before the trial even began.

“She clearly sought to sell that artwork to benefit herself and her family,” White said.

During the entire court proceedings, Bautista stood up and spoke only once, right before the judge read the sentence, she said, “My lawyers have spoken for me. Thank you.”

Judge White sentenced Bautista to between one to three years in state prison for the conspiracy conviction.

She was also sentenced to between two to six years for first degree tax fraud conviction and one year for offering a false document with an intent to defraud.

All her sentences will run concurrent.

Judge White also ordered Bautista to pay restitution to New York State and New York City $3,557,620 in unpaid taxes.

Bautista was seen wiping her tears moments after the sentence was read.

“We will be filing an appeal and as you have heard the appeal will be somewhat expedited, and we are hoping the Appellate Division agrees with us,” Bautista’s legal counsel Fran Hoffinger said

But Bautista who served as Imelda Marcos’ personal secretary and was also a member of the Philippine Mission to the US from the 1970s to the 80s – is not going to jail right away.

Judge White said that the 75-year-old former Marcos aide is clearly suffering from numerous medical conditions and that was taken into account during the sentencing.

Bautista was released on a $275,000 bail pending her appeal of the sentence.

The court said Bautista has 31 days to file an appeal otherwise she has to surrender herself for incarceration.

“We’re so happy that the judge granted bail pending appeal and I think we’re just going to leave it at that at this point,” Hoffinger said.

The sentencing will reconvene on May 13.

You may contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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