Security guard foils art heist in downtown Houston

HPD: Men dressed in business attire try to steal painting

HOUSTON - Two men are in jail after security guards at Houston's Chase Tower were able to thwart a bold art heist.

Police say the men tried to steal a painting using the tunnel system below, but it turns out there were some kinks in their plan.

It sounds like something out of movie. Police say first they tried to trick a security guard and then went underground, but they didn't realize they were on camera the entire time.

It's a large painting, but its size didn't stop a pair of men from trying to sneak it out of the tunnel system below Chase Tower.

"People nowadays are so creative. It's kinda scary what they come up with to get away with that," said Alyssa Tavarini, who works downtown.

Police say Austin Brown, 24, and Juan Noriega, 25, told security guards they worked inside the building and needed to get something out of their office and then stole the painting from Alonti's restaurant in the underground tunnels.

But police say security guards were watching them on surveillance cameras and notified police when they realized the men were up to no good.

Police say the suspects first made sure there was an unlocked door from the stairwell to the outside street, but their plan hit another snag when the painting got stuck in a doorway.

"They dropped the painting in the stairwell then they took off running and all that stuff is on video," said Houston Police Officer Gaspar.

Moments later the men were taken into custody. Police say one of them had even changed shirts during their attempted art heist.

"I've been on 22 years and never did one of these cases. It's something like you see out of a Pink Panther show," said Gaspar.

Local 2 has learned that oil painting was created by local artist, Joan Steinman, and it could retail for well over $7,000.

Police say when questioned one suspect told police he changed shirts because he got sweaty. Both have been booked into jail on felony theft charges.

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