An Manhattan art dealer ran an $88 million scam that cheated rich and famous clients like actor Robert De Niro and his family and tennis great John McEnroe in order to finance a luxurious lifestyle, New York prosecutors charged Thursday.
Lawrence Salander, 59, was arrested at his expansive, 66-acre estate in upstate Millbrook, and charged with cheating investors, art owners and a bank -- 26 alleged victims since 1994.
His fancy East 71st Street art gallery on the Upper East Side, Salander-O’Reilly Galleries LLC, was once one of the world's best but has been padlocked in the wake of the gallery's bankruptcy filing and mounting civil suits.
Prosecutors alleged that he would sell multiple stakes in one painting, some that weren't even his to sell, and then pocket the cash. They said he stole millions to live in his estate and travel the world on private jets.
“The fraud in each investment opportunity occurred when Salander did not own the work of art he offered for investment in whole or in part,” Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said.
Among other alleged victims: the Bank of America and Morton Bender, president of Independence Federal Savings Bank in Washington D.C.
Arraigned before State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus, Salander pleaded not guilty. He was charged with grand larceny, securities fraud, scheme to defraud, forgery, criminal possession of a forged instrument, falsifying business records and perjury.
Morgenthau said an investigation continues into “whether other people were involved.”
Jonathan Dienst WNBC
WNBC Jonathan Dienst