NYC art gallery owner indicted again

NEW YORK (AP) – The owner of a closed Manhattan art gallery that once boasted a star-studded clientele was arrested again Tuesday on charges of carrying out an art fraud that now totals $93 million.

Lawrence B. Salander of Millbrook, New York, is accused of stealing from artists, art owners and investors. The victims include the estate of abstract expressionist Robert De Niro Sr., father of the famed actor, and tennis great John McEnroe.

The indictment unsealed Tuesday, the second against Salander in four months, charges him with grand larceny and falsifying business records.
It also names his Salander-O’Reilly Galleries LLC, which closed in 2007, and his 12-year gallery director, Leigh Morse, as defendants. The gallery was charged the same as Salander, and Morse was charged with grand larceny and fraud.

Salander, 60, and Morse, 53, pleaded not guilty Tuesday at their arraignments in Manhattan’s state Supreme Court.

Justice Michael Obus set $75,000 bail for Morse, which she posted, and he let Salander remain free on the $1 million bail he posted in March after the first indictment. The judge set their next court date for Sept. 9.

Salander’s lawyer Charles Ross said there is “more to this case than meets the eye.” Ross added that his client will fight the charges vigorously and “will be completely vindicated.”

Morse’s attorney, Andrew Lankler, said he had no comment on the case.
The 100-count March indictment accused Salander of defrauding 26 victims of $88 million. That indictment charged him with grand larceny, securities fraud, forgery, falsifying business records and perjury.

People who had consigned art for him to sell sued him. A Manhattan judge padlocked his gallery and impounded the art inside. Manhattan prosecutors have said 4,000 works from the gallery are in the custody of federal bankruptcy authorities in Poughkeepsie, New York.

District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said in March that Salander used the stolen money in his failed effort to corner the Renaissance art market and to support an ostentatious lifestyle. He said that lifestyle had included private jet travel, a gaudy Frick Museum party for his wife and the purchase of a 66-acre (26-hectare) country estate.

Morgenthau also said at the time that Salander defrauded victims named in the first indictment in two primary ways:

In one, he sold art not owned by him and kept the money. The district attorney said this was how Salander stole from the De Niro estate.

And in a variation on this method, Morgenthau said, Salander sometimes sold a piece of art – owned by someone else – several times.

“Why sell it just once when you can sell it three times?” he said.

In the other scheme, Morgenthau said, Salander lured art investors into bogus or nonexistent investment opportunities. He said this was the scheme Salander used to bilk McEnroe out of more than $2 million.

The second indictment accuses Salander of defrauding three victims out of $5 million. The victims include:

. The Lachaise Foundation, which lost $2.8 million after consigning the works of Gaston Lachaise, a French-born American sculptor known for his nudes.

. The De Niro estate, which lost more than $1 million after consigning the works of the abstract expressionist painter.

. The Elie Nadelman estate, which lost more than $1 million and also was named a victim in the first indictment; Nadelman was a Polish-born American sculptor.

The Nadelman count in the first indictment was superseded because of additional evidence presented to the grand jury.

Morgenthau’s lead prosecutor in the case, Assistant District Attorney Micki Shulman, said there is little chance that the victims will regain their art or any significant part of their monetary losses.

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