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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Robert De Niro to Testify as Ex-Salander Employee Starts Trial for Fraud

Bankrupt art dealer Lawrence Salander exits the Manhattan criminal court in New York. Salander was sentenced to six to 18 years in state prison earlier this year. Bankrupt art dealer Lawrence Salander exits the Manhattan criminal court in New York. Salander was sentenced to six to 18 years in state prison earlier this year. Photographer: Paul Goguen/Bloomberg

Conniving thief or oblivious employee?

Two pictures of a former deputy of disgraced art dealer Lawrence B. Salander emerged in a Manhattan courtroom yesterday.

Leigh Morse, 54, is being tried in New York State Supreme Court on charges of fraud and grand larceny in connection with what the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has called the biggest art fraud in New York history.

Witnesses scheduled to appear include actor Robert De Niro, Earl Davis, the son of modernist painter Stuart Davis, and former gallery staff.

Salander was sentenced to 6 to 18 years in state prison earlier this year after he pleaded guilty to 30 counts of fraud and grand larceny for operating an art Ponzi scheme in his Upper East Side gallery. He was ordered to pay restitution of more than $100 million. He’s at the Mid-State Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison east of Syracuse, New York.

Morse has pleaded not guilty to one count each of fraud and grand larceny.

Assistant District Attorney Kenn Kern said in his opening statement that Morse “withheld, stonewalled and delayed information about sales” of artworks to heirs of U.S. artists represented by Salander’s gallery.

As they weren’t told of 100 sales of their artworks, heirs didn’t know of the proceeds to which they were entitled, Kern said.

“It was almost like a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” Kern said. “The defendant chose to keep the scheme alive and kicking, month after month, year after year.” Salander’s lawyer, Charles Ross, declined to comment.

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