Judge says Salander can’t repay victims

Prosecutors have called the situation the largest art fraud case in New York history

Victims of $120m fraud committed by New York dealer Lawrence Salander are unlikely to see their money again, according to New York State Court Justice Michael Obus at a restitution hearing last Wednesday. Prosecutors have called the situation the largest art fraud case in New York history and Salander faces a maximum sentence of 18 years in prison.

The disgraced dealer pleaded guilty to 29 counts of grand larceny on 18 March in New York criminal court. He admitted to defrauding victims by collecting money for phony art-investment schemes and selling shares in paintings twice-over, as well as selling art he did not own and keeping the proceeds.

Christie’s will sell art recovered from the former Salander-O’Reilly Galleries on 9 June, as a special addition to its Old Masters and 19th-century art auction. The sale was court-ordered in January as part of a bankruptcy plan in order to settle major creditors’ debts.

The 130 lots are expected to raise more than $2.5m and include works by Rubens, Vecchio, and from the studio of El Greco. Each work is covered by title insurance protection from New York-based ARIS Title Insurance Corp—which protects buyers from people coming forward with ownership claims.

The Salander-O’Reilly Galleries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2007. Justice Obus said he wants to sentence Salander, who is currently free on $1 million bail, by the end of the summer. The next hearing is scheduled for 23 June.

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