British art dealer jailed in US over £25 million fraud

Acelebrated British art dealer has been jailed in the US on charges of defrauding his customers of up to $30 million (£25m) using works by artists including Picasso, Chagall and Signac, among others.

Timothy Sammons, 63, apologised to his victims on Tuesday as he was sentenced to spend between four and 12 years behind bars.

Sammons, who was extradited from the UK to the US in 2017, and has been in custody ever since, said he was “extremely sorry for the trouble I caused people.”

The former Sotheby’s art dealer, who dealt in works by Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Paul Gauguin, Amedeo Modigliani, and René Magritte, told the court: “It was not my intention to cause any grief at all. This wasn’t supposed to happen.”

Sammons pled guilty on July 2 to 15 counts of grand larceny and fraud.

His victims – at least four clients – were in New York, London and New Zealand, and the paintings involved included multiple famous works of art such as Buste de Femme by Pablo Picasso, Reverie by Marc Chagall, and Calanque de Canoubier (Pointe de Bamer) by Paul Signac, among others, according to the indictment.

The art expert had left Sotheby’s, where he was head of the Chinese art department, to start his own art advisory business in 1995.

Opening up offices in New York and Zurich, he acquired a formidable client base, including the Bill Gates Foundation, to whom he sold John Singer Sargent’s Cashmere, in 1996, for $10.7 million (£6.7 million).

Police began investigating his business in 2015.

They found that, between 2010 and 2015, he had brokered the sale of multiple pieces of art on behalf of his clients at auctions and private sales, but failed to turn over the corresponding proceeds of those sales to the owners.

When his clients would inquire about the sales, he would ask them to be patient or ignore them – pocketing the money for himself, or else using the proceeds to pay off another victim in what prosecutors termed a giant Ponzi scheme.

Sammons was declared bankrupt in January 2017, had his passport confiscated and his £4 million home in Primrose Hill, north London, repossessed after he defaulted on loans.

He was charged by New York prosecutors, who successfully sought his extradition to the US.

Cyrus Vance, Manhattan district attorney, said that Sammons was a skilled schemer.

“When brokering the sales of high-priced, one-of-a-kind paintings, Timothy Sammons had lying, scamming, and stealing down to a fine art,” he said in a statement.

Mr Vance explained that Sammons “used the proceeds of the sales of the art for personal expenses, including first-class travel, hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to his American Express Centurion Card, and expensive private club memberships.”

Sentencing Sammons, Justice Ann Scherzer said: “The emotional harm and financial harm done to the victims of this crime is very serious.”

Sammons’ lawyer, David Touger, said in court that while his client concedes he took money, he “denies using any of the funds for his own personal enjoyment.”

He said the stolen money was used for business purposes.

Sammons is expected to get deported to the United Kingdom upon his release.

The Telegraph | July 31, 2019
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/07/31/british-art-dealer-jailed-us-25-million-fraud/