Connecticut art gallery owner arrested on federal charges alleging fraud

PostCrescent.com on April 3, 2012 released the following:

By John Christoffersen, Associated Press

“BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WTW) — An art dealer was arrested on fraud charges Tuesday, more than a year after his Madison gallery was raided by the FBI.

David Crespo, who has been accused previously of dishonest dealings in the art world, appeared in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport on mail and wire fraud charges. He was released on $50,000 bond.

Crespo owned Brandon Gallery, which was raided in November 2010 by FBI agents who seized several pieces of artwork. At the time Crespo denied that he was the target of a federal probe and said he was assisting a larger investigation into art fraud.

Crespo’s attorney and his wife declined to comment at Tuesday’s hearing.

Philip Coffaro, a Long Island art gallery owner who once did business with Crespo, said he was interviewed by FBI agents who showed him fraudulent certificates that Crespo had apparently used to overstate the value of signed Marc Chagall prints. Crespo would buy items from him for around $200 and mark them up as much as $10,000 for sale as far afield as Korea, Coffaro said.

“The certificates were disgusting,” Coffaro said.

Coffaro had a falling-out with Crespo in 2008 when he accused his former associate of selling off a piece of art that did not belong to him.

A lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York alleged that Coffaro loaned Crespo a Salvador Dali painting, “Folle Folle Folle Minerva.” Coffaro said Crespo later refused his demands to return it, giving it instead to another man to pay off a debt.

Coffaro spent $40,000 to reclaim the painting and sold it for about $220,000, but Crespo continued to claim ownership of the painting, according to a complaint.

A judge ruled in 2010 that Coffaro is the rightful owner. That ruling is under appeal.

“David is his own worst enemy,” said Coffaro, who owns Gallery 25 in Mineola, N.Y. “He took advantage of the system. He took advantage of people. He’s very smooth.”

The next court hearing for Crespo was scheduled for July 13.”

18 U.S.C. § 1341 – Mail Fraud

18 U.S.C. § 1343 – Wire Fraud

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