Hundreds of paintings stolen from a Los Banos hotel over the weekend have been recovered. 

The artwork was taken from a truck in the parking lot.

It was on its way to a gallery near Santa Cruz.
Friday night, the driver transporting the artwork stopped in the lobby of the Maple Inn.

He parked his truck in plain sight and called it a night.

When he woke up, six years of hard work and 268 paintings had vanished. 

It was painful news for Argentinian artist Maximo Gonzalez, who had been waiting for their arrival at the Montalvo Art Gallery in the Santa Cruz mountains.

“I feel [sic] completely lost,” said Gonzalez

The paintings were portraits of dead trees from all over the world, for an exhibit about climate change.

“This work is not…don’t have real value in the market,” said Gonzalez.

He dedicated a better part of a decade to painting them.

Gonzalez was left hoping for good news about their whereabouts.

He finally received that good news Thursday when he was reunited with the stolen art, thanks to Los Banos police.

“The painting is in perfect condition,” said Gonzalez.

“A resident of Los Banos notified the Los Banos police department that she had located a few of the paintings,” said Detective Sean Bayard with the Los Banos Police Department.

He said they followed the tip to residents of a mobile home park who found some of the paintings, not realizing they were stolen.

Police found other paintings on a nearby walking trail and some near a dumpster. 

“They saw a number of packages. They took them. They open them up, didn’t see any value in them and that’s why some of them were left behind,” said Bayard.

Gonzalez reported all 156 drawings were recovered, along with 52 paintings. 

“I [sic] still missing 58 painting and the detective still working,” said Gonzalez.

For their efforts, Gonzalez gave detectives one painting each.

Another painting was also set aside for the good samaritan who called in the tip.

Gonzalez said he is grateful for getting back a major part of his life.

“I feel like something in my soul came back,” said Gonzalez.

Police said the investigation is ongoing and they do have suspects.

They said those responsible could face felony charges. 

Anyone with information is asked to call Los Banos police.