Former art gallery owner sentenced for swindling artists

Former art gallery owner sentenced for swindling artists

By KERANA TODOROV, Register Staff Writer | Posted: Friday, July 9, 2010 12:00 am | (0) Comments

A former art gallery owner has been sentenced to five years in state prison for grand theft and sales tax fraud committed in Yountville, court records show.

Edward King III pleaded no contest in January to fraud under a plea agreement that could have kept him away from prison. Under the deal, King was supposed to pay $500,000 in restitution by June 1. He never did.

On June 30, Napa County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kroyer sentenced King, 55, to five years in state prison for grand theft charges stemming from the sale of artwork consigned at King’s “Generations Fine Art Gallery” between 2002 and 2006. The five-year sentence includes two years for failure to pay sales tax.

King sold art consigned at his gallery at Vintage 1870 on Washington Street. Vintage 1870 is now V Marketplace.

According to court records, the victims, including artists and art dealers from out of state, said they had placed their art work in consignment at the Washington Street gallery, but were not paid their dues. Their losses ranged from $2,200 to more than $77,000, according to court records.

The victims reported calling, and even coming to the art gallery, only to find the store closed and empty.

“Eventually, it all caught up with him,” said Napa County Deputy District Attorney Gary Van Camp, who negotiated a plea agreement in an attempt to have King repay the victims.

But King, who moved from Napa to Texas a few years ago, where he last worked as a golf pro, filed for bankruptcy in 2009. In court records, King stated he had not been able to make restitution for a variety of reasons, including a down real estate market.

The sale of his house, which had been expected to bring $140,000, was sold in a short sale with no money realized from the sale, King said in court records.

King also stated he was overwhelmed by his wife’s cancer after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2003, according to the court records. Vicky King died in 2009.

“Ed, he lost his rock when his wife took sick,” his attorney, Matthew Bishop, said Wednesday.

According to court documents, King said “My family and I were not able to raise the $500,000 restitution in the last four months because of the extreme financial exhaustion of the family income and savings due to Vicky’s cancer lasting six years and the ongoing legal costs associated with this case.”

Victims stated in court records the hardships they endured over the past few years because of King’s actions.

Fran DiGiacomo, an artist from Texas who is owed $3,000, said she has undergone chemotherapy since 1996.

“The relationship between artist and gallery owner is unique because it relies entirely upon the honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness of the gallery owner,” DiGiacomo wrote. “Mr. King completely destroyed my faith in the system, and I am unable to trust other galleries, afraid to send them artwork. I have lost income, and lost opportunity. Mr. King crushed my mental and emotional ability to create artwork,” she wrote.

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