Formally well-respected Australian art dealer Ronald Coles is finally facing up to ten years in jail for his alleged involvement in a multi-million dollar art fraud scheme. The 64 year-old Coles was charged with 87 offenses for his role in an elaborate investment racket that resulted in an estimated $8 million loss for some 43 clients across Australia.
Coles was charged with 77 counts of larceny and 10 counts of fraud as an art dealer. The Kenthurst gallery owner allegedly sold 30 paintings without the consent of the owners of the works. Police also report that Coles created multiple owners for individual works, selling them without revealing the other owners.
Di Allen, a creditor who purchased a Norman Lindsay from Coles in 2008, was relieved when she heard of Coles' arrest, despite knowing that the likelihood of getting her money back was slim.
"A lot of people have lost a lot of money and while I think we all know we're never going to get it back, I'm delighted we're finally going to be heard in court," said Ms. Allen.
Coles' career spanned 30 years, specializing in Australian fine art from Arthur Streeton, Brett Whiteley and Norman Lindsay. Things began to fall apart in 2009 after a task force was created to investigate Coles; the police eventually raided his home and found more than 400 paintings and a gun. (Who says art dealers can't pack heat?)
Coles, avoiding the scrutiny of the public and his investors, hid away on the central coast until his recent appearance at a local court in New South Wales. In October 2009, The Sun-Herald tracked him down at his apartment.
"Why do you think I'm living like this in a small flat doing night-time taxi work?" he asked. "I'm also a victim in all this.'' Oi.
Have you ever been the victim of fraud? What happened? Let us know in the comments section below.