Art dealer held over $88m fraud

By Stephen Foley
Friday 27 March 2009 01:00

A Manhattan art dealer conned the rich and famous out of $88m (£61m) in a string of scams over more than a decade, according to a 100-count indictment against him.

Lawrence Salander's victims included the former tennis star and broadcaster John McEnroe, who lost more than $2m and responded to the news through a lawyer last night by saying: "I'm not surprised."

Mr McEnroe was twice sold a half-share in a work by the Armenian painter Arshile Gorky, only to find that Mr Salander had sold them to others as well, the indictment claims.

According to the district attorney, Mr Salander used the proceeds to fund a lavish lifestyle. Even as clients were suing him for their money back in 2007, as the authorities closed in, he was spending $500,000 on jewellery for his wife and hundreds of thousands of dollars more on holidays.

One investor lost $42m after believing they had purchased 328 Renaissance art works. The next biggest loss, of $6.7m, was sustained by Earl Davis, son of artist Stuart Davis, whose 96 paintings were consigned to Mr Salander for sale.

Mr Salander's Upper East Side gallery, noted for displaying paintings as diverse as English landscapes by John Constable and modernist scenes by Robert De Niro Sr, the actor's father, was named as the best gallery in the world by The Robb Report, a glossy lifestyle guide for the rich.

The dealer was being held on $1m bail after bring arrested at his home in upstate New York yesterday morning. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of grand larceny.

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