Spitzer Reaches Settlement With Gallery Selling Fake Art Work Over The Internet

Consumers who were victimized by an Orange County gallery that sold fake works of art over the Internet will receive full refunds under a settlement announced today by Attorney General Spitzer.

Last May, Spitzer filed a civil suit against the owners of The Antique and Design Center of New Windsor, charging that they had sold at least 56 counterfeit paintings to unsuspecting buyers between 1998 and 2000.

The settlement, approved by Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Barbara Kapnick, requires gallery owners Jerry and Jill Schuster to:Refund an estimated $111,000 to 18 customers who were defrauded;

  • Post a $70,000 bond before continuing to do business in New York;
  • Agree to pay treble damages and a $5,000 penalty for any future violations and;
  • Pay $45,000 to the Attorney General's office for the cost of its investigation.

"The Internet has been a revolutionary force for good, but unfortunately it can also be used by unscrupulous business people to take advantage of consumers," said Spitzer. "Many of the schemes to defraud people that we used to see exclusively off line have now moved on line. This case shows us that there really aren't any new scams, only new ways of pulling old scams."

The Shusters have sold and auctioned works of art for over 20 years. Spitzer noted that in 1980, Jerry Shuster was sentenced to a year and a day in jail and fined $10,000 for selling forged artwork and Tiffany lamps.

During its investigation, Spitzer's office uncovered numerous works with forged signatures, spanning a variety of periods and artistic styles. Among them were forgeries of works by the American watercolorist Charles Burchfield; the German-born artist Oscar Bluemner; and abstract expressionist Milton Avery.

A New Hampshire art dealer paid over $13,000 for a counterfeit represented as the work of 19th century New York landscape artist George Inness, while a German art collector paid over $10,000 for a phony water color falsely sold as the work of Bauhaus artist Lyonel Feininger.

"The Internet has made a vast range of artwork and other collectibles readily available to the mass public, including through Internet auction houses," said Spitzer. "However, consumers must be particularly careful when purchasing art and collectibles over the Internet, because the opportunity to inspect the items is limited, and the manner in which the art is displayed is wholly in the seller's hands. Some unscrupulous sellers can fool consumers by hiding signs of fraud with clever photography thereby obscuring forged signatures, suspicious marks on canvas backs, or other tell-tale signs. We will continue to prosecute such sellers who violate New York's laws."

Spitzer pointed out that a painting sold as an "Oskar Kokoschka," for over $6,000, had a tell-tale sign of being forged - when the painting's frame was removed by his investigators, the canvas back revealed the name of the actual artist- a student in a class titled "Learning to Paint."

The Antique and Design Center has also done business by the name "The Antique Connection," and through e-Bay user identifiers gutek914@aol.com; shooberger914@aol.com; and zugnicht@aol.com. Consumers who believe they may have been defrauded should contact Spitzer's Internet Bureau.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Dreifach, the Chief of Spitzer's Internet Bureau.

More information about Internet-related topics and online business tips can be found on Attorney General Spitzer's world wide website: www.ag.ny.gov

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