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Marc Chagall, Reverie. Photo: Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

London Dealer Receives Prison Sentence for Cheating Clients Out of Millions

Timothy Sammons, a London-based dealer and former head of the Sotheby’s Chinese art department, was sentenced to four to twelve years in prison for swindling collectors out of tens of millions of dollars, Bloomberg reports. The sixty-three-year-old pleaded guilty to fraud and grand larceny in a New York City court earlier this month.

According to prosecutors, Sammons stole as much as $30 million from clients in the US, the UK, and New Zealand who consigned works such as Marc Chagall’s Reverie, Pablo Picasso’s Buste de Femme, and Paul Signac’s Calanque de Canoubier (Pointe de Bamer) to him between the years of 2010 and 2015. The dealer apparently misreported how much the pieces fetched and did not give their owners all the proceeds from the sales. Sammons allegedly used some of the revenue to purchase first-class airline tickets and private club memberships and to pay off credit-card debts. He also used several artworks as collateral for personal loans.

“When brokering the sales of high-priced, one-of-a-kind paintings, Timothy Sammons had lying, scamming, and stealing down to a fine art,” Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement. “For years, the defendant peddled a deceitful, money-spinning scheme, garnering the trust of prospective buyers and sellers only to defraud them of millions and use the ill-gotten gains to fund his lavish lifestyle.”

After Sammons failed to remit payments, collectors began pursuing legal action against him in 2015, which prompted a court in the UK to freeze all his assets. His London home was also repossessed, and his passport confiscated. During sentencing, New York State Supreme Court Judge Ann Scherzer called his crimes “extremely serious and very disturbing.” She also said that the best thing Sammons can do once he is released from prison is to “return to a life of productive employment and to pay back judgments.” 

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