Attorney General Cuomo Sues To Stop Newburgh Antiques Seller Who Sold Thousands Of Dollars In Fake Artifacts

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (October 15, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that his office is suing to stop a Newburgh resident’s fraudulent antique artifact operation where he sold fake items for thousands of dollars over the Internet.

Mircea Veleanu sold artifacts online claiming that they contained high quality and expensive jade, when they actually were made of quartz or glass. He then refused to provide refunds or acknowledge that the pieces were fake. The Attorney General’s lawsuit seeks to permanently bar Veleanu from selling jade artifacts unless they can be verified as authentic and obtain restitution for consumers he defrauded, plus penalties and costs to the state.

“This individual preyed on collectors of expensive antiques and artifacts and didn’t deliver on his promises,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Our lawsuit seeks to shut down this fraudulent operation and get money to those who are affected.”

Cuomo urges consumers to contact his Poughkeepsie Regional Office at 845-485-3900 if they purchased art or artifacts from Veleanu that they suspect are knockoffs or fake.

Veleanu is a retired doctor and collector of antique jade carvings and other oriental artifacts. He portrayed himself as an expert on such wares and has authored three books devoted to his collection. Since at least 2001, Veleanu began selling items from his collection, including jade carvings, under the business name of “Objets D’Arts Uniques.” In 2002, he began selling items through eBay and GoAntiques.com.

In 2007, Veleanu, of Susan Drive in Newburgh and Heritage Hills in Somers, sold two strings of jade Tibetan Prayer Beads (malas) to a consumer, one of which he falsely claimed was made of “fei tsui” jade, an extremely valuable and high quality type of jade. Over the next two years, he convinced the same consumer to purchase seven malas for a total price of $12,365. Veleanu continually assured the consumer that the jade was pure and of the highest quality. He also sold two calligraphy brushes for $2,400 and falsely described them as containing high-quality jadeite beads.

Upon closer inspection after purchase, the consumer saw that the beads contained bubbles indicating that they were actually made of glass and not jade. The consumer then subjected all of the jade malas she purchased from Veleanu to the American Gemological Trade Association (AGTA), which determined that they were all made of dyed quartz instead of jade. Veleanu refused to provide refunds from the consumer, rejected the labs’ results and continued to insist that the items were indeed made of authentic jade.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit seeks to permanently bar Veleanu from advertising and selling jade items unless it has first been tested and confirmed as legitimate by the American Gemological Trade Association Testing Center or a lab of equal reputation. The suit also seeks to require an accounting of all of Veleanu’s customers and full restitution to those he defrauded, including $13,983.03 to a single complainant. Cuomo’s lawsuit also seeks a civil penalty of $5,000 for each deceptive act and costs.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Garin under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General-in-Charge of the Poughkeepsie Regional Office Vincent Bradley.

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