Time Limit Ends Antiquities Case Of Ex-Curator
By ELISABETTA POVOLEDO
Published: October 13, 2010
ROME — The case against Marion True, the former curator of antiquities at the J.Paul Getty Museum, ended abruptly on Wednesday, after a court here ruled that the statute of limitations on her alleged crimes — receiving artifacts stolen from Italy and conspiring to deal in them — had expired.
The trial had dragged on intermittently for five years. Numerous witnesses testified for the prosecution, which argued that Ms. True knowingly bought ancient artifacts of dubious provenance for the collection of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The trial was widely believed to be the first instance of a museum curator facing criminal charges for such alleged crimes.
Her Italian legal team had not yet begun to call witnesses in her defense. Ms. True, who was first formally investigated in 2000, has maintained her innocence.
She served as chief antiquities curator at the Getty from 1986 to 2005, stepping down shortly before her trial began. Her indictment was closely followed in the news media and the museum world, where standards pertaining to the acquisition of antiquities have been the subject of significant debate in recent years.
“The case invited scrutiny into what had been collecting practices that were not unusual in the American museum world of the 1980s and 1990s,” Maxwell L. Anderson, director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the former president of the Association of Art Museum Directors, said in a telephone interview from New York.
The trial was a wake-up call, he added. “The notion that a single curator could be indicted for what was a practice of American museums led us to review how American museum collections were being built, ” he said. In 2008 the association adopted a “no provenance rule” forbidding members from acquiring antiquities that could not be adequately vetted. Ms. True “sacrificed herself on behalf of other museum directors in America,” Mr. Anderson said.
Paolo Ferri, the prosecutor who built the case against Ms. True and has since retired, said Wednesday that the trial had served as a signal to museums that buying objects without provenance had to end.
Over the years as Mr. Ferri made his case in the Rome courtroom, lawyers for the Italian state negotiated a series of agreements with various American museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for the return of objects with hazy provenance.
The Met was the first American museum to come to an agreement, in February 2006. In exchange for long-term loans, it returned 20 artifacts, including a renowned Greek vase known as the Euphronios krater, acquired by the museum in 1972, and pieces of Hellenistic silver purchased in 1981 and 1982.
In September 2007, the Getty — which boasts one of the top collections of ancient art in the United States, built largely by Ms. True and another curator, Jiri Frel — agreed to return 40 antiquities that Italy claimed had been looted from its soil before the museum purchased them.
During Ms. True’s tenure she returned several artifacts to Italy when informed they had been stolen, including a 2,500-year-old kylix, or drinking cup, by the Greek artists Onesimos and Euphronios; a bronze Etruscan tripod; and some 3,500 objects from the archaeological site at Francavilla Marittima in Calabria. And in 1995 she persuaded the Getty to adopt strict standards requiring objects the museum was considering buying to be documented by scholars.
“She was instrumental in changing how the Getty and other museums approached acquisitions,” said Harry Stang, her Los Angeles lawyer.
Maurizio Fiorilli, the lawyer for the Italian state who negotiated the restitution agreements with American museums, described Ms. True as “a contradictory figure” who bought antiquities “without carrying out the proper due diligence,” even as she tried to raise the museum’s acquisition standards. “And she was an employee, faithful to the Getty,” he said in a telephone interview.
In its decision on Wednesday the court acknowledged that the 7 ½-year statute of limitations on the conspiracy charge had expired on July 11; it said the 10-year statute of limitations on the charge of receiving stolen goods had run out in 2007.
Francesco Isolabella, one of Ms. True’s Italian lawyers, said he called her at her home in France after the decision. “She said she was happy that after 10 years the trial was over,” he said, adding that she was relieved that “the tornado that destroyed her life had finally passed.”
Ms. True’s co-defendant, Robert Hecht, 91, is standing trial on the same charges; in his case the statute of limitations is due to expire next July, said his lawyer, Alessandro Vannucci.
A version of this article appeared in print on October 14, 2010, on page C1 of the New York edition.
admin October 14th, 2010
Lawsuit Filed In Pebble Beach Art Heist Case
Alleged Victims File Defamation Lawsuit
POSTED: 7:59 am PDT October 1, 2010
UPDATED: 9:12 am PDT October 1, 2010
MONTEREY, Calif. — Two men who said they are the victims of a multimillion-dollar art heist in Pebble Beach last year have filed a lawsuit against Monterey County and members of the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department.
The lawsuit filed Thursday by Dr. Ralph Kennaugh and Benjamin Amadio claims defamation and false light statements were made by Monterey County, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Mike Kanalakis, Monterey County Sheriff spokesman Mike Richards and 25 John Does.
PDF: Pebble Beach Art Heist Complaint
The lawsuit comes nearly a year after Kennaugh and Amadio reported a theft of artworks from their rental home at Pebble Beach on Sept. 25.
The stolen collection — which includes works by Jackson Pollock, Rembrandt and Van Gogh — was estimated to be worth as much as $80 million.
The first court date for the case has been set for Feb. 25, 2011.
A press conference to discuss the lawsuit is scheduled to be held at the Monterey County courthouse on Tuesday.
Both Amadio and Kennaugh said they believe the heist was an inside job and done by a professional who had knowledge of what art was at the home.
As for the investigation into the art theft, sheriff’s investigators said they haven’t seen any new evidence, which left them with their original question: Did the artwork ever exist, and was there even a crime?
So far, the sheriff’s department has sent nothing to the district attorney’s office which would be necessary before any charges could be filed against anybody.
Refresh KSBW.com for more on this developing story.
admin October 1st, 2010
NY lawyer convicted in Dead Sea Scrolls case
By COLLEEN LONG (AP) – 18 hours ago
NEW YORK — A scholar’s son was convicted Thursday of using online aliases to harass and discredit his father’s detractors in a heated academic debate over the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
A Manhattan jury found Raphael Golb guilty of 30 counts against him, including identity theft, forgery and harassment. He was acquitted of one count of criminal impersonation.
Golb didn’t react as he heard the verdict in the unusual criminal trial over claims of Internet impersonation — even more unusual because of its arcane subject. He said outside court he wasn’t surprised by the verdict, because he felt the judge’s instructions to the jury were biased. He planned to appeal. As he sat on a bench, he said: “I’m stoic.”
“I’m looking forward to the appeal,” he said. “But not with joy, just because that is what happens next.”
Prosecutors said Golb, 50, used fake e-mail accounts and wrote blog posts under assumed names to take his father’s side in an obscure but sharp-elbowed scholarly dispute over the scrolls’ origins. Golb acknowledged on the stand that he crafted the e-mails and blog posts, but said the writings amounted to academic whistle-blowing and blogosphere banter — not crime. He said he was using irony, satire and parody to expose a plagiarist.
Defense Attorney Ron Kuby said the case was a clear violation of the First Amendment.
“Today what happened was the District Attorney of New York County and the trial court made hurting somebody’s feelings a criminal act,” he said. “And in New York, hurting people’s feelings or being annoying is not a crime, we call that Monday.”
The jury deliberated about five hours. Golb was acquitted of impersonating one scholar, but convicted of identity theft, harassment and criminal impersonation of Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, a longtime rival of his father’s whom he said plagiarized research and was never punished. Schiffman took the case to authorities.
Golb’s father and Schiffman, who is chairman of New York University’s Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies have long disagreed on the origins of the texts. Schiffman says they were assembled by a sect known as the Essenes. Norman Golb, a University of Chicago professor, believes the writings to be the work of a range of Jewish groups and communities.
Scholars are split on the debate; there are supporters of both arguments.
Raphael Golb, a linguistics scholar and lawyer with degrees from Oberlin College, Harvard University and NYU, said he was angry the plagiarism accusations were never brought to light and that his father’s theory was being smeared online.
Golb created an account under Schiffman’s name and sent messages from it to Schiffman’s students and colleagues. They pointed to blog posts about the plagiarism allegation and asked the recipients to help keep it quiet. “This is my career at stake,” some of the e-mails said.
The blog posts, too, were Raphael Golb’s work under other names, prosecutors said. They said he also opened up e-mail accounts in the names of other scholars of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Schiffman denies copying Norman Golb’s work and says he’s never had a personal problem with the Chicago historian.
He said in a statement Thursday that he was appreciative of the work on the case.
“Let us hope that the field of Dead Sea Scrolls research can get back to its real business — interpreting the ancient scrolls and explaining their significance for the history of Judaism and the background of early Christianity,” he said.
Jurors left without speaking to reporters. During the three-week trial, they were given a history lesson on the more than 2,000-year-old documents, found in caves in Israel in the 1940s by a Bedouin shepherd searching for a lost goat. The texts contain the earliest known versions of portions of the Hebrew Bible and have provided important insight into the history of Judaism and the beginnings of Christianity.
Access to the scrolls was tightly controlled by a group known as the monopoly. Jewish scholars — including Norman Golb — were not allowed to evaluate them. The controlled access to the scrolls continues, Golb argued during his testimony. He said his father was excluded from participating in workshops and museum exhibits on the texts while other more popular scholars were invited.
District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance said stealing money isn’t the only type of identity fraud.
“Using fictitious identities to impersonate victims is not what open academic debate seeks to foster,” he said.
Golb faces at least four years in prison on the top charge when he is sentenced Nov. 18. He is free until then.
While Internet impersonation claims have generated lawsuits, prosecutions are rare unless phony identities are used to steal money, experts say.
In one high-profile prosecution, Missouri mother Lori Drew was accused of helping her daughter and a friend pose as a teen boy on MySpace to send hurtful messages to a 13-year-old neighbor girl. The girl committed suicide.
A federal jury in California, where MySpace has its servers, convicted Drew of misdemeanor counts of accessing computers without authorization. A judge overturned the verdict and acquitted her.
Associated Press Writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.
admin October 1st, 2010
Kurt Lidtke, Accused Art Thief, Agrees to Protect the Names of His Alleged Victims
By Rick Anderson, Tue., Sep. 7 2010 @ 9:51AM
Categories: Arts & Culture
In May, after ex-con and onetime Seattle gallery owner Kurt Lidtke was indicted a second time for stealing great works of Northwest art, the rumor mill began grinding: who were the patrons that Lidtke and his two alleged co-heisters hit for a likely quarter-million-dollars or more in objects d’art? Federal prosecutors not only wouldn’t say, they have now moved in court to prevent anyone from knowing. And Lidtke and his co-defendants think it’s a good idea.
One Seattle home cited in an FBI agent’s report on the alleged thefts by Lidtke was burglarized last November of 13 paintings and a sculpture. Three paintings alone – two Morris Graves and a Mark Tobey — were valued at $190,000.
That was a month before Lidtke, 44, left prison after serving almost three years for nine counts of first-degree theft. (He had stolen $435,000 from the sale of 19 paintings consigned at his Pioneer Square art gallery, prosecutors said in 2007).
Released a few months before him was Lidtke’s Monroe cellmate, Jerry Christy, 50, (a.k.a. Nick Natti), with whom, U.S. prosecutors now say, Lidtke schemed last Fall to break into homes and steal the works of wealthy Seattle art collectors. Christy did the jobs and Lidtke, allegedly aided as well by Christy’s wife Georgia, then resold the works on the black market, according to court documents.
Though Lidtke and Jerry Christy remain locked up – barring any pleas, a trial is set for October – the victims have asked that their names be kept secret, apparently in fear they could be hit again. Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Friedman has joined with attorneys for the three defendants in seeking the protective order.
In a U.S. District Court motion filed last Friday, Friedman notes that discovery in the case includes questions about “the identities of persons who own certain art, as well as the nature and value of that art.” He says victims will be questioned in the case, and that “One or more such persons have indicated a concern about preserving the confidentiality of such information.”
As a result, the parties believe that it is in the public interest, including the interest of owners of art who are concerned that information concerning the nature and value of their art not be made public, for the Court to enter a Protective Order
In the proposed order, as yet unsigned by U.S. Judge Robert Lasnik, the protected discovery material could be seen only by attorneys, defendants, their investigators and experts. “If any Protected Material is filed in court, it shall be filed under seal, so that it is not publicly available.” It’s thus likely the ownership and true money loss of the 13 paintings in that big heist last year won’t be revealed.
Attorneys for the defendants didn’t return phone calls. An attorney unconnected to the case theorized that prosecutors are seeking the order out of legitimate concern for the victims’ valuables and safety, while the defendants – who have pleaded not guilty – may have agreed to the order because they claim not to know who the victims are anyway.
The key to cracking the case, prosecutors say in court papers, was an undercover FBI operative who bought art works allegedly stolen by Hugh Christy at the behest of Lidtke, whose calls to the operative were recorded. In an April call, Lidtke allegedly told the operative of a plan to heist works by Tobey, Graves, Picasso, Renoir, and Jasper Johns from “a mansion on Lake Washington.”
Back in 2007, before he was charged with the thefts that led to the collapse of his downtown gallery, Lidtke told the P-I: “I’m bulletproof. Does that sound arrogant? I’m not arrogant. I’m as humble as humble pie.”
Lidtke sounded less humble in the calls the FBI says it recorded this year. He claimed to be “steering [Christy] in the direction we should go.” As he allegedly explained in one call: “It’s also the Department of Corrections sort of mistake. They locked me up with a bunch of criminals. And, and I can say
admin September 7th, 2010
Co-Owner of Missing Corot, Sales Agent Spent Time in Prison
By Karen Freifeld, Katya Kazakina and Philip Boroff – Sep 4, 2010 12:01 AM ET Sat Sep 04 04:01:01 GMT 2010
James Haggerty. Haggerty was convicted in 2006 in a vehicular assault case and was the defendant in a lawsuit involving a missing $1.4 million Corot painting. Source: Nassau County District Attorney via Bloomberg
“Portrait of a Girl” by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. The painting is missing after a man hired to help sell the painting misplaced it after a night of drinking. The owner valued it at $1.4 million. Source: The Granger Collection via Bloomberg
A prison mug shot of Tom Doyle. Doyle was identified as the co-owner of the missing Corot painting “Portrait of a Girl.” Source: New York State Department of Correctional Services via Bloomberg
Tom Doyle and James Carl Haggerty weren’t hobnobbing in Manhattan, Miami or London in early 2007 as the art market was peaking.
They were confined in March and April to Ulster Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison 94 miles north of Sotheby’s York Avenue salesroom in New York. Doyle, now 53, had pleaded guilty to grand larceny related to the sale of a bronze Degas sculpture. Haggerty, 55, was convicted of vehicular assault, after a drunk-driving incident that caused serious injuries to two victims.
Now they’re linked to a missing $1.4 million Jean-Baptiste- Camille Corot painting, a story that started as an improbable man-walks-into-a-bar joke in New York tabloids and evolved into something more serious after a mug shot of Doyle, the art-crime felon, was matched to Tom Doyle, a co-owner of the Corot.
A James Carl Haggerty was hired to help sell the painting, and told Doyle, the co-owner, that he’d misplaced the painting after a night of drinking at Manhattan’s Mark Hotel, according to a lawsuit filed on Aug. 30 by Kristyn Trudgeon, who claims to be another of the painting’s owners.
“It was a beautiful piece,” said Trudgeon in an interview. “It’s lost by this drunk.”
Max DiFabio, who represented Trudgeon, said earlier this week that he was withdrawing the suit after he showed her a mug shot of Doyle. He is no longer working for her, he said yesterday.
Trudgeon, 39, called co-owner Doyle a “friend” and declined in an interview to say whether they’re romantically linked. She acknowledged that he has access to her apartment.
“He is a very commendable man,” she said. “Tom just got his driver’s license renewed. He’s not hiding.”
Trudgeon claimed in her suit that Haggerty, promised a fee to sell the 1857-58 “Portrait of a Girl,” had taken the Corot to the Mark on Doyle’s instructions. Haggerty was to show the artwork to a London dealer who’d expressed interest in buying it, according to the complaint.
After hours of drinking, Haggerty left the Mark with the painting, according to the complaint. An hour and 40 minutes later, he arrived empty-handed at the West Side apartment where he was staying and later told Doyle he couldn’t recall where the painting was, the complaint states.
Trudgeon said she filed the lawsuit to obtain Haggerty’s phone records.
“Unless you turn your phone off you can figure out your location because you bounce off the satellite,” she said. “There are so many satellites in Manhattan we could figure out where he was during that hour and a half.”
Call to Haggerty
A man who answered a call placed to a mobile phone Haggerty used in connection with the painting sale said it was a wrong number and hung up after being told the caller was a reporter.
Doyle didn’t return phone messages seeking comment.
The artwork was earlier in the collection of Los Angeles’s Hammer Museum. In 2007, Armand Hammer Foundation, funded by the industrialist who died in 1990, sold it for $900,000, according to the foundation’s tax return. Trudgeon said she and Doyle bought it from New York’s Hammer Galleries in June with the aid of investors. She declined to disclose the price.
The gallery’s chairman, Michael Hammer, is president and chief executive of the Hammer Foundation, according to a 2008 tax return. Hammer didn’t return messages seeking comment left at the gallery.
Doyle and Haggerty started their sentences in the Ulster County prison within days of each other, said Linda Foglia, a spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Correctional Services. Haggerty was released in September 2008, and Doyle was released in December 2009, Foglia said.
Howard Gollomp, chief executive of Imperial Jets, a New York charter company, said Doyle and Haggerty worked as consultants for him this year to generate business. He said the only thing they generated was unwelcome publicity after the story broke.
“They have been banished from the kingdom,” he said.
The James Carl Haggerty who served time in prison is about five-foot ten, with blond hair and blue eyes. Simon Mills, who was the landlord of Haggerty the sales agent the night of the painting’s disappearance, said the person in James Carl Haggerty’s mug shot is the same man as his former tenant.
Mills’s apartment in Trump Place is the address Trudgeon claims is Haggerty the sales agent’s residence and the one she used for the summons for her lawsuit against him. Haggerty lost the painting between the Mark Hotel and his return to that apartment, the complaint states.
A person who dealt with Haggerty the sale agent also matched the vehicular-assault mug shot to him, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential.
2006 Art Crime
Doyle was charged in New York in 2006 with grand larceny and possession of stolen property in connection with the Degas. He posed as a member of an art-collecting family to befriend Norman Alexander, owner of “Danseuse Regardant le Plant de son Pied Droit,” a sculpture of a dancer looking at the sole of her foot, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has said.
“This is a bad guy,” said Gary Lerner, a New York lawyer who represented Alexander. “He’s a con man and a thief.”
Doyle was accused of taking the piece in 2004 and selling it for $225,000. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to serve a maximum of five years in state prison, according to Erin Duggan, a spokeswoman for the district attorney. Doyle was paroled Dec. 7, state Department of Correctional Services records show.
“Let’s say he’s guilty as hell, which I don’t think he is, so what?” Trudgeon said. “The lawsuit is against Haggerty, not against Tom. I’d hope everyone would just back off and focus on the painting.”
District Attorney Investigation
It turns out the district attorney is already doing that as part of a new criminal investigation, according to a person with knowledge of the confidential probe who asked not to be named.
Walter Lynch, director of security at the Mark Hotel, said Sept. 2 that he was talking to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Duggan, the district attorney spokeswoman, declined to comment on the matter.
The case is Trudgeon v. Haggerty, 111583/2010, Supreme Court of the State of New York.
To contact the reporters responsible for this story: Karen Freifeld in New York at email@example.com; Katya Kazakina in New York at
admin September 7th, 2010
Danvers man charged with stealing historic items from library
By Bella Travaglini, Town Correspondent
Acting on an anonymous tip, Danvers police this weekend arrested a Danvers man who is accused of stealing two precious metal items from the library and selling them at an Everett scrapyard.
Police arrested Richard Provencher, 48, at his Purchase Street home around 9 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 7, said Sgt. Robert Bettencourt, and charged him with two counts of receiving stolen property and two counts of drug possession after they found pills on him during the arrest. He is accused of stealing an historic 19th century decorative copper urn and large copper plaque, which had each been donated to the Peabody Institute Library.
On Friday, Aug. 6 police received a call from someone had gave them a description of Provencher’s white pickup truck and license plate after seeing him bring a large plaque with the word “Danvers” on it into an Everett scrap yard called Scrap It, said Bettencourt.
Earlier Friday morning, the town’s building maintenance department reported to police that a large, 3 feet by 3 feet bronze plaque weighing 100 lbs.,which had been donated to the Peabody Institute Library of Danvers at 15 Sylvan St. by the Danvers Rotary Club in 1999, was missing from the outdoor gazebo, said Bettencourt.
After receiving the tip, police contacted the scrapyard and confirmed that a man had brought in the plaque with other scrap metal to sell, said Bettencourt.
Police asked about an urn, which had been reported missing from the library earlier in the week, and the scrap shop confirmed that they had the urn and had purchased it earlier last week from the same man for $1,400, said Bettencourt.
The urn’s metal is valued at about $4,000, and was donated to the library by a former library trustee, said Bettencourt. Police were unable to place an accurate monetary value on the 19th century urn due to its historical nature, he said.
Provencher was released on $2,500 bail sometime over the weekend and is set to be arraigned today in Salem District Court.
admin August 10th, 2010
Blanding resident avoids prison in artifacts-trafficking case
By erin alberty
The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated 5 hours ago
Another defendant in a federal artifacts-trafficking case has avoided prison time.
Dale Lyman, 76, of Blanding, was sentenced to 60 months probation for trafficking in stolen artifacts, a felony worth up to two years in prison. He is the fourth defendant to be sentenced of 26 people charged in an alleged artifacts-trafficking ring. Seven have pleaded guilty.
So far, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups has sentenced none of the trafficking defendants to prison time. Blanding residents Jeanne Redd and daughter Jericca received 36 months and 24 months probation, respectively, and both were fined after pleading guilty to multiple felonies.
Blanding resident Charles Denton Armstrong was sentenced to prison for threatening undercover operative Ted Gardiner. Gardiner, a former business executive and antiquities dealer wore recording devices to capture evidence and conversations during the 2½-year investigation. Gardiner shot himself to death March 1 in his Salt Lake County home.
Two defendants in the case also committed suicide: Blanding physician James Redd and New Mexico resident Steven Shrader.
Four of the defendants are scheduled to be sentenced this month: Brent Bullock and Tammy Shumway, of Moab, and Nick Laws and Aubry Patterson, of Blanding.
admin July 7th, 2010
Stolen Shakespeare folio is given its day in court
By Hugh Macknight
Saturday, 19 June 2010
A valuable Shakespeare first edition stolen from Durham university library in 1998 was displayed in public for the first time in a decade today.
The 387-year-old relic, which is at the centre of an international intrigue involving a flamboyant jobless book dealer, a cocktail waitress and a Cuban special forces commando, was carried into Newcastle Crown Court in a padlocked black plastic strongbox.
Described by experts as the most important printed work of English literature in the world, it had been missing until the book dealer, Raymond Scott, handed it to staff at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC asking for it to be authenticated.
Posing as a wealthy international playboy he told researchers he had been entrusted with the folio by friends in Cuba, who believed it might be valuable, the court heard.
Folger staff suspected that the folio, which had had its covers removed and had pages missing, might be stolen and contacted the British Embassy, Durham Police and the FBI. Weeks later Scott, of Wingate, County Durham, was arrested.
Dressed in his trademark £300 Tiffany prescription sunglasses and diamond ring, the 53-year-old watched intently from the dock as the 1623 artefact, once owned by Bishop of Durham John Cosin, was examined.
The trial was told Scott “damaged, brutalised and mutilated” the folio in an attempt to disguise it after stealing it from a display of treasures of English Literature at the Cosin Library on Durham University’s Palace Green.
But Ian Doyle, the university’s former librarian and Keeper of Rare Books, said the folio had been quickly identified as the Cosin edition.
The court has heard how Scott, who denies stealing, handling and transporting the folio overseas, had become infatuated with a young Cuban waitress and had been sending her money, leaving himself £90,000 in debt. It was claimed she would share the proceeds of the sale with Scott and a retired Cuban Army commandant, Deni Mareno Leon.
The trial, which is expected to last four weeks, continues on Monday.
admin June 19th, 2010
Jobless man ‘mutilated’ stolen Shakespeare folio
A jobless book dealer who posed as a wealthy international playboy “mutilated” a rare Shakespeare first folio to disguise the fact that it was stolen, a court heard.
By Richard Savill
Published: 4:37PM BST 17 Jun 2010
Rare book dealer Raymond Scott arriving at Newcastle Crown Court for the start of his trial. Photo: North News
Raymond Scott tore the binding and boards from the 1623 book – described as the most important in the English language – before claiming to have discovered it in Cuba.
Mr Scott was alleged to have stolen the book from a locked cabinet at the Pallas Green Museum at Durham University in 1998.
Newcastle Crown Court was told Mr Scott had hoarded the folio at the two-up two-down former council home he shared with his elderly mother, Hannah, in Washington, Tyne and Wear.
The book reappeared in public on June 16 2008 when Mr Scott took it the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC, and tried to sell it.
By then, the book had pages missing and the boards it had been bound in were pulled off.
One expert who inspected the book, which was still thought to be worth one-and-a-half million US dollars in its damaged condition, described it as “ cultural legacy that has been damaged, brutalised and mutilated.”
Mr Scott, 53, who sat in court wearing Valentino sunglasses, Versace crocodile shoes and a Louis Vuitton waist pouch, denied theft, handling stolen goods and removing criminal property from Britain.
Robert Smith QC, prosecuting, said Mr Scott had told experts at the Folger library he was a wealthy businessman who lived in Switzerland and had a mother living in Monte Carlo.
He claimed he had inherited his father’s construction business and was independently wealthy, giving the impression he was more interested in the book’s historical background than its monetary worth.
Mr Scott told experts he had come across the book in Cuba after meeting a woman called Heidi Garcia Rios, who worked at a hotel in Havanna.
He said that through his friendship with her, while he was renting a two storey Villa, with tropical gardens and a pool, in the Cuban capital, he had been introduced to Deni Mareno Leon, a retired military major whose mother had recently died.
Mr Scott claimed it was after the death of Mrs Leon that the book, which had been in her family for a century and was kept in an old wooden bible box, came to light.
He said that after he was shown the folio, which included the works The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Macbeth, he had carried out some preliminary research in Cuba and learned of the Folger Shakespeare Library.
As his Cuban friends had been unable to take the book to the library themselves, Mr Scott said he had agreed to have it authenticated on their behalf and given them a $10,000 deposit before he took it out of the country and into America.
He described the day they had realised the potential value and historical significance of the book as “folio Friday”.
Mr Smith said: “He presented himself as someone doing a service to the cultural community by bringing in the book and having it authenticated.
“He said he was staying at the Mayflower hotel in Washington where he had a suite; the Mayflower is an exclusive and well known hotel in Washington.
“He offered Cuban cigars to the curator, who declined,” Mr Smith added:
“The truth was Raymond Scott lived in a house at 3 Widgeon Close, Washington, not DC, but Tyne and Wear, with his mother.
“The evidence will establish he was not a wealthy man by any means, on the contrary, he was living on state benefits.
“The evidence will establish he was living way beyond his means, he had at the time debts of more than £90,000.”
The court heard investigations revealed Mr Scott had become “infatuated” with a woman living in Cuba in around February 2008 and had been sending her huge sums of money.
Mr Smith said this was cash he could “ill afford and had been borrowed for that purpose”.
The court heard despite the damage to the book experts at the Folger concluded it was an original first folio, one of only around 200 printed, after examining the paper under a microscope and carrying out other tests.
Despite their findings the experts at the Folger sought a second opinion.
It was when the book was further examined it was identified as the stolen Durham edition.
The trial, expected to last four weeks, continues
admin June 18th, 2010
DOJ absolves 14 NPC officers of Manansala mural theft
By DateLine Philippines
Posted on Jun. 16, 2010 at 6:43pm |
MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Alberto Agra has ordered the dropping of a criminal complaint filed against 14 officers of the National Press Club (NPC) in connection with the sale of the Vicente Manansala mural painting on the NPC building in Intramuros, Manila.
In a four-page resolution issued on June 11, Agra withdrew his earlier resolution which ordered the indictment of the journalists before the trial court for the supposed “theft and illegal sale” of the mural.
Cleared of any criminal liability were NPC officials Roy Mabasa, Benny Antiporda, Loui Logarta, Amor Virata, Jun Cobarrubias, Jerry Yap, Alvin Feliciano, Joey Venancia, William Depasupil, Dennis Fetalino, Joel Sy Egco, Conrad Generoso, Rolly Gonzalo, and Samuel Julian.
The NPC officers earlier appealed Agra’s May 27 resolution ordering the filing of criminal charges against them based on the petition for review filed by the Government Service and Insurance System (GSIS) which claimed ownership of the mural.
After reviewing arguments presented in their motion for reconsideration, Agra held there was no probable cause to indict the 14 officers for violation of Article 308 in relation to Article 310 of the Revised Penal Code (qualified theft).
The Justice secretary also ruled that the mural’s buyer, Odette Alcantara, did not violate Presidential Decree 1612 or the Anti-Fencing Law.
In their motion for reconsideration, the NPC officers presented new evidence consisting of a ruling of the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City, Branch 112, declaring that it is NPC that owned the Manansala painting at the time that it was removed from the wood-framed wall of the NPC building.
“Based on this new evidence presented by respondents-appellees, we reverse our findings,” Agra said.
The case stemmed from the criminal complaint lodged by the GSIS against the NPC for selling the painting for more than P10 million.
GSIS stressed that the NPC officers were liable for qualified theft for selling the painting without its consent.
admin June 16th, 2010
Conn. court rules in feud over Rockwell paintings
By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN (AP) – 10 hours ago
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Connecticut Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of two brothers in their long-running feud with a third brother over an inheritance that included famous Norman Rockwell paintings.
The state’s high court ruled unanimously in favor of William and Jonathan Stuart, who have been fighting with their brother, Kenneth J. Stuart Jr.
The paintings were collected by their father, Kenneth J. Stuart Sr., who was art director of The Saturday Evening Post.
As a result of the ruling, Stuart Jr. will have to pay nearly $1 million to the family estate. The ruling will make it easier to prove civil theft allegations that are part of the dispute because the high court set a lower burden of proof.
Stuart Sr., who died in 1993, amassed a significant art collection, including three of Rockwell’s best-known paintings: “Saying Grace,” “Gossips” and “Walking to Church.”
He had initially executed a will that would have distributed his assets equally to his three sons.
But less than four months before his death while suffering from a deteriorating mental condition, most of his assets were transferred to a partnership Stuart Jr. formed with his father, according to court records. The other two sons learned of the partnership after their father’s death and sued in 1994, saying their father lacked the mental capacity to understand what had happened. They said their brother’s actions amounted to theft.
Stuart Jr. denied the allegations, saying he was carrying out his father’s wishes.
A Superior Court judge in Stamford agreed with many of the claims of the two brothers who sued, ruling in 2004 that the father was not mentally competent and the partnership was not valid. The judge awarded $2.37 million against Stuart Jr. that was to be paid to his father’s estate.
But the judge ruled the two brothers were required to prove the theft claim by clear and convincing evidence.
The two brothers appealed, saying the judge awarded them insufficient damages by applying the wrong standard of proof. Instead of clear and convincing proof, they argued they only had to meet a lower standard of a preponderance of the evidence.
The Appellate Court rejected their appeal, but the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the lesser standard was the correct one. The high court referred the case to the trial court for further proceedings.
The estate owns six Rockwell paintings that are housed at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., said William Gallagher, Stuart Jr.’s attorney. The paintings are worth $25 million to $50 million, Gallagher said.
Stuart Jr. wants to sell the paintings, but his brothers do not. Sandra Akoury, attorney for Jonathan and William Stuart, said the number of paintings is in dispute but nevertheless agreed her clients do not want to sell them.
The dispute over the paintings is pending in probate court.
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
admin June 11th, 2010
Posted In: lawsuit
Art Theft Central: Comments on Leonardo Trial
The five men, who were charged with plotting to extort money for the return of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Madonna of the Yarnwidner, which had been stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch’s Drumlanrig Estate, north of Dumfries, during a brazen art theft four years earlier have been cleared of all charges…
admin April 22nd, 2010
Posted In: lawsuit
Judge vindicates Newport art dealer over sale of painting
01:00 AM EDT on Sunday, April 18, 2010
By Richard Salit
Journal Staff Writer
Judith Goffman Cutler points out details in the work “The Runaway” in the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the National Museum of American Illustration, in Newport.
AP / Charles Krupa
NEWPORT — Ever since the FBI announced in 2007 that she sold Steven Spielberg a stolen Norman Rockwell painting — spurring the victim of the 1973 art heist to sue and criticize her amid a media frenzy — art dealer Judith Goffman Cutler has hoped for one thing.
A happy Hollywood ending. Like Spielberg would film.
Last week, Cutler got just that. A federal judge in Nevada found that Cutler, contrary to allegations made by the original owner, did strive to verify that the provenance of “Russian Schoolroom” was unbesmirched. He also concluded that Cutler — not the art dealer targeted by thieves 37 years ago — is the rightful owner of the painting, now worth an estimated $800,000.
“Once you are associated with selling a stolen painting, there is always a cloud over you … It’s like a scarlet letter. The only way to clear your name is to go all way to the end … and not to settle. I knew what I did was right,” said Cutler. “It wasn’t comfortable. It was a horrible three years.
“Finally,” she said. “Justice.”
Now, Cutler and her husband, Laurence, plan to add “Russian Schoolroom” to the collection of Rockwells at the National Museum of American Illustration, which they founded and operate on Newport’s prestigious Bellevue Avenue. They hope it will make a grand appearance at this summer’s 10th anniversary celebration of the public opening of the museum, which will include the presentation of awards to supporters Whoopi Goldberg and Tom Wolfe.
Rockwell, inspired by a visit to the Soviet Union, painted “Russian Schoolroom” in 1967, six years before its theft. It appeared on the cover of Look magazine and depicts students at their desks, all fixated on a bust of Lenin except one boy who is gazing out of a window. Cutler, who also owns an art gallery in New York City, bought the painting at auction in New Orleans in 1988 for $70,400.
But what she didn’t know was that in 1973, someone smashed a window of an art gallery outside St. Louis, Mo., and made off with “Russian Schoolroom.” Owner Jack Solomon received a $20,000 insurance settlement.
Cutler, who has sold more than 50 Rockwells to Spielberg over the years and visited his Pacific Palisades home, interested the movie mogul in “Russian Schoolroom.” He bought it for $200,000.
Eighteen years passed before Cutler received a disturbing phone call in 2007. It was the FBI, calling to inform her that she had sold Spielberg a stolen painting. The case did not result in criminal charges, but Solomon sued for the painting, alleging that Cutler should have known it was stolen.
Since 2007, however, Cutler’s lawyers uncovered evidence suggesting that not only did Solomon apparently know about Cutler’s purchase of the painting in 1988, he also received a share of what Cutler paid for it. He struck a deal in which his former insurer would be reimbursed $20,000 and he would get a substantial share of the sale proceeds, Chief Judge Roger L. Hunt wrote in his decision. Solomon’s denial at trial, said the judge, “was not credible.”
“There is some degree of anger in me that this man who benefited from this when it was stolen, by collecting insurance, and then in 1988, when he got most of the proceeds from the auction, which was Judy’s money, in 2007 tried to get paid a third time. It’s just so outrageous,” said Laurence Cutler.
The judge also determined that the statute of limitations had run out on any claim Solomon might have. And, much to Cutler’s delight, he concluded that her investigation of the painting’s ownership history at the time she bought it “met the standard of care for art dealers in the industry.”
After the controversy over “Russian Schoolroom” erupted, the Cutlers traded Spielberg the tainted painting for another Rockwell to disentangle the filmmaker from the legal wranglings. That’s why the judge awarded ownership to Cutler.
Cutler had also sought $25 million in damages, asserting that her longtime business relationship with Spielberg had been harmed. Spielberg’s lawyers actually filed suit against Cutler at one point to protect his interests.
But Spielberg, who was deposed for the civil trial, was asked if he would buy another painting from Cutler. Yes, he answered.
“Our whole case for damages went right out the window,” said Laurence Cutler, laughing. But, he added, “We were happier to hear Steven’s attitude.”
admin April 18th, 2010
Posted In: lawsuit
Exonerated: Steven Spielberg’s Art Dealer in Case of Rockwell Painting Stolen from St. Louis
By Chad Garrison, Monday, Apr. 12 2010 @ 1:56PM
Categories: Arts, News
russian schoolroom 3.jpg
Rockwell’s Russian Schoolroom disappeared during a 1973 gallery heist in St. Louis.
Daily RFT spoke to a very elated Judy Cutler on Friday as the Rhode Island-based art dealer made her way back east from a Las Vegas courtroom.
For the past three years Cutler and her husband, Laurence, have been involved in a costly and drawn-out legal battle over a Norman Rockwell painting titled Russian Schoolroom that was stolen from a St. Louis art gallery back in 1973. As Riverfront Times first reported, the painting re-emerged three years ago when the FBI learned it was in the private gallery of movie director Steven Spielberg.
Judy Goffman Cutler and her husband, Laurence.
Hearing of the discovery, the owner of the artwork at the time of its disappearance, Las Vegas art dealer Jack Solomon, filed suit against Spielberg and the FBI claiming ownership of the painting.
The FBI was later dismissed from the case as was Spielberg after Cutler stepped in to take his place in the litigation. Cutler, after all, was the person who sold the painting to Spielberg in 1989 for the price of $200,000, a year after buying the piece at auction in New Orleans for $70,400.
As Riverfront Times has chronicled over the years, the case of the stolen painting has had more plot twists than even the best Spielberg film — including clues linking it to a St. Louis art thief implicated in a plot to kill Martin Luther King Jr.
For the purposes of this post, however, will stick to the facts of the lawsuit. They’re interesting enough.
In his lawsuit, Solomon claimed that Cutler did not do a thorough background check prior to buying the painting at auction and selling it to Spielberg. Had she done her due diligence, argued Solomon, Cutler would known it was stolen and that its rightful owner was Solomon.
Curiously, though, it seems that Solomon knew that the painting had turned up for action in 1988. Not only that, Solomon appears to have profited from the sale of the painting to Cutler.
That was the finding last week of U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt who last Thursday in his decision and statement of fact suggested that Solomon twice profited off the stolen painting. The first time was in 1973 when his insurance company cut him a check for $20,000 for the lost art work and the second time in 1988 when Solomon reached a decision with the New Orlean’s auction house that he get a split from the sale of the painting.
Furthermore, the judge found plenty of other evidence suggesting that Solomon knew the painting was up for auction in 1988 — despite Solmon’s claims to the contrary. These included testimony from his friends and former employees that they contacted him and left messages that they’d seen the painting advertised for auction.
In his decision Thursday, Judge Hunt wrote: “In light of the testimony of other witnesses, many of whom had no personal stake in this litigation, the court finds Solomon’s denial of these events is not credible.”
The Cutlers tell Daily RFT they were able to introduce the most damaging testimony against Solomon only after subpoenaing the FBI for transcripts of its depositions taken while investigating the provenance of the painting.
Russian Schoolroom, per Hunt’s ruling, is now the property of Judy Cutler who in 2007 swapped the title of the painting with Steven Spielberg for another Rockwell painting of “equal or greater value.”
Below: The judge’s nine-page decision and conclusion of fact.
admin April 13th, 2010
Posted In: lawsuit
I acted lawfully over stolen Leonardo, says solicitor
The accused clockwise from top: David Boyce, Marshall Ronald, Robert Graham, John Doyle and Calum Jones
A solicitor accused of helping to hold a stolen Leonardo da Vinci painting to ransom has claimed that his law firm was used to give a “cloak of respectability” to a deal intended to return the painting to its aristocratic owner.
Madonna of the Yarnwinder was recovered after the police raided the Glasgow offices of the commercial law firm HBJ Gateley Wareing in October 2007. The painting had been stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch’s home at Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfriesshire, in August 2003. David Boyce, 63, resigned from the law firm after the raid and is now on trial for extortion, along with four other men, at the High Court in Edinburgh. Giving evidence yesterday, he denied that there had been any conspiracy in the “unusual” transaction.
Mr Boyce had been approached by Marshall Ronald, a Lancashire-based solicitor he knew from property dealings who was acting on behalf of two Merseyside private detectives. The clients claimed that they could get their hands on the painting, which was insured for £15 million but worth perhaps three times that figure. Mr Boyce told the court that, at the request of Mr Ronald, the efforts to return the painting had been kept highly confidential, but not secret.
The trial has been told that Mr Boyce’s boss, Malcom McPherson, claimed that he felt entitled to be angry at the way the firm had been let down “specifically by the non-disclosure of such high-risk, high profile activity”.
* I deserved £2m reward, says Leonardo accused
* Police raided law office to recover painting
“I don’t see it like that,” Mr Boyce told the court.
He said he felt his law firm had been used to give “a cloak of respectability” to dealings aimed at securing the valuable painting’s return. “Things have come out in this trial which have changed my view of Mr Ronald,” he said.
Mr Boyce told advocate depute Simon Di Rollo, for the prosecution: “I have never had any involvement in any criminal transaction in my life. This was something that required to be done lawfully and was done lawfully.”
He said he had not seen an agreement that contained a clause demanding that “law enforcement agencies” should not be told what was happening. He said he had passed matters on to junior partner Calum Jones, another of the men on trial. “I am not a contracts lawyer,” he explained. “I had no reason to look at any of the documents. It was not my job.”
Mr Boyce told his own defence QC, David Burns: “If there was for a moment any doubt about the legality of this, I and my firm would not have been involved.”
Standing trial are Marshall Ronald, 53, from Skelmersdale, Lancashire; Robert Graham, 57, from Ormskirk, Lancashire; John Doyle, 61, also from Ormskirk; Calum Jones, 45, from Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire; and David Boyce, 63, from Airdrie, Lanarkshire. They are accused of plotting to obtain money from the 9th Duke of Buccleuch, his son and their insurers Hiscox UK. They deny conspiring to extort £4,250,000 or, alternatively, attempting to extort the money between July and October 2007.
The trial continues.
admin April 13th, 2010
Posted In: lawsuit
Solicitor claims ‘no conspiracy’ in artwork transaction
Clockwise from top left, Robert Graham, John Doyle, Marshall Ronald, David Boyce and Calum Jones
Five men deny conspiring to extort money for the return of the Da Vinci
A solicitor accused of helping to hold a stolen Da Vinci artwork has denied there was a conspiracy involved.
David Boyce, 63, told the High Court in Edinburgh he thought the transaction to return the painting was “unusual”, but it was not suspicious.
He is one of five men who deny conspiring to extort £4.25m for the return of the painting in October 2007.
In the final evidence heard by the jury, Mr Boyce said: “I find myself embarrassed to be in this position.”
The Madonna of the Yarnwinder was stolen from Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfriesshire in 2003.
Mr Boyce, who resigned from HBJ Gateley Wareing in Glasgow following his arrest, said he felt his law firm had been used to give “a cloak of respectability” to dealings aimed at securing the valuable painting’s return.
He said had been approached by Lancashire-based solicitor Marshall Ronald, a lawyer he knew from earlier property dealings, who was acting on behalf of two Merseyside private eyes who claimed they could get their hands on the painting.
At the request of Mr Ronald, the business of returning the painting had been kept highly confidential, but not secret, he said.
Mr Boyce told advocate depute Simon Di Rollo, prosecuting: “I have never had any involvement in any criminal transaction in my life.
“This was something that required to be done lawfully and was done lawfully.”
He agreed the transaction had been “unusual” and unique in his law career, but denied it was suspicious.
“I thought the return of a stolen painting in these particular circumstances was something laudable, if it could be done lawfully,” he added.
He claimed he had not seen an agreement which contained a clause demanding that “law enforcement agencies” should not be told what was happening.
Mr Boyce said he had passed matters on to junior partner Calum Jones, another of the men on trial, and had “no reason” to look at any of the documents.
Madonna with the Yarnwinder
The painting was stolen in southern Scotland in 2003
He told the court: “If there was for a moment any doubt about the legality of this, I and my firm would not have been involved.
“Let me assure you of that. There was no conspiracy, no intention to extort.”
On trial along with Mr Boyce are Mr Jones, 45, from Renfrewshire, and Marshall Ronald, 53, Robert Graham, 57 and John Doyle, 61, all from Lancashire.
They are not accused of stealing the painting and deny conspiring to extort £4.25m or attempting to extort the money.
Closing speeches in the trial, which is in its seventh week, are expected to begin on Tuesday.
admin April 13th, 2010
admin April 5th, 2010