Bail hearing delayed for man accused in Montreal art thefts

Bail hearing delayed for man accused in Montreal art thefts
Bail hearing delayed for man accused in Montreal art thefts

Montreal police have released these two photos of Robert Huet. Courtesy of SPVM. MONwp

A man who has made a career out of pulling off heists for four decades will remain behind bars until at least next week while he remains charged with stealing works of art from three Montreal galleries as well as the bust of a famous French explorer from Lachine city hall. 

Robert Huet, 63, was calm as he appeared before a Quebec Court judge at the Montreal courthouse on Wednesday while his lawyer Olivier Cusson asked that his client’s bail hearing be delayed. It was the fifth time since his arrest, early in December, that Huet has agreed to push back a court hearing that could potentially produce his release. His case returns to court next week but only for a formality hearing. 

Huet was arrested just two days after the Montreal police issued a release on Dec. 2, seeking help from the public to identify two men whose images were captured by security cameras during thefts where works of art were yanked from galleries in downtown Montreal and from Lachine’s city hall. In the latter case, police believe at least two men managed to walk into the municipal building and left with a bust of French explorer René Robert Cavelier de LaSalle that was on public display. 80e25467b4.jpg

On May 23, this painting worth $18,000 was stolen from a gallery on Sherbrooke St. in Montreal. The painting, Maison en hiver, is by Quebec painter Marc-Aurèle Fortin. It’s an oil painting in a frame sculpted with gold leaves and measures eight by 10 inches. Handout / SPVM

The bust, which is estimated to be worth more than $10,000, was reportedly recovered from Huet’s home, an apartment on Rielle St. in Verdun, on Dec.4, the same day he was arrested. Michel Blais, 29, a resident of the Sud-Ouest borough, was also arrested soon after the Montreal police issued their release. He was charged, on Dec. 4, with one count of theft in connection with the bust that was stolen from Lachine’s city hall. Blais was released after he was charged and his case returns to court on Friday. atlantide-dalfred-pellan1.jpg?quality=55

This work, Atlantide by Alfred Pellan, was among several pieces of art reported stolen. Handout / SPVM

Huet currently faces eight charges in all at the Montreal courthouse including the theft of a painting by Quebec artist Alfred Pellan, titled Atlantide, that was stolen from the Galerie Heffel on Sherbrooke St. W. on Oct. 16. He is also charged with stealing a painting by Marc-Aurèle Fortin, titled Maison en Hiver, from the Galerie d’art Cosner, on de Maisonneuve Blvd., on May 23, as well as the theft of a metal sculpture by Jacques Huet from the Contemporary Art Gallery on Crescent St. on Oct. 28. 

The Montreal police estimated the combined value of the two paintings, the bust and the sculpture to be worth more than $50,000. But an updated charge sheet filed in Huet’s case on Dec. 14 alleges he does not limit himself to the finer things in life. He is alleged to have stolen “diverse objects” from three different stores — Walmart, Canadian Tire and La Cordée — all on the same day he was arrested. He is also currently charged, at the Laval courthouse, in connection with a theft that was pulled off in that city on Sept. 9. 

Huet’s lengthy criminal record dates back to 1978 when, on Feb. 21, he pleaded guilty to having carried out a theft in Montreal. In January 2012, he was arrested in connection with a break-in at a jewelry store in Knowlton, in the Eastern Townships about 100 kilometres southeast of Montreal. The case dragged on for four years until a stay of proceedings was placed on the two charges he faced on Dec. 7, 2016. 

In 2004, Huet was sentenced to an overall prison term of 35 months after he pleaded guilty to having carried out more than two dozen break-ins at large hardware and grocery stores in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick. Huet and a pair of accomplices used the same strategy in what police estimated were more than 30 similar robberies carried out in the three provinces. One of the robbers would distract a store manager while another would make off with the store’s safe. 

Huet’s longest sentence, by far, was delivered in 1988, when a District Court judge in Ontario sentenced him to an 11-year prison term for his role in a violent armed robbery of a jewelry store on Bloor St. in Toronto. Three men in all were involved in the $1-million heist of expensive watches carried out in February 1987, during which a police officer was disarmed and beaten with his own handgun. During his trial, Huet was alleged to have entered the store before the robbery and chose which display cases should be targeted by his two accomplices. 

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