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Art dealer charged with embezzlement, shorting clients

Embezzlement is a white-collar form of theft. Most people charged with embezzlement had a job in which they were entrusted with money or valuables belonging to someone else, which the accused person stole, according to authorities.

For example, a prominent but failed art dealer has been charged with three counts of grand theft by embezzlement over sales of pieces for collectors including former Disney executive Michael Ovitz. Prosecutors claim the dealer failed to turn over more than $1 million in proceeds from the sales.

According to The Seattle Times, the man opened a high-profile gallery in Los Angeles around 2012, and filed for bankruptcy two years later. Before that, he agreed to sell two paintings for Ovitz. He reportedly sold the paintings for more than $1 million, but allegedly never paid Ovitz.

He is also accused of selling a scroll by a Japanese artist on behalf of a collector, but only paying the collector $575,000 out of the $825,000 the scroll sold for. The collector contends that the dealer told him that the best offer he got for the scroll was just $630,000.

The art dealer’s defense attorney denied the charges, and said his client would fight for his reputation in court.

Embezzlement is a serious charge, and conviction can mean prison time, as well as an order to compensate the victim. Even if you are sure the charges are false, you must take them seriously. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to hire a criminal defense attorney experienced in white-collar crime matters.

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