Two reasons that criminals are eager to steal valuable paintings are because their values can be outrageous and the physical weights of the items are negligible. Transport is also not difficult once a painting is cut from its frame and rolled into a carrier tube.
Matthew Taylor, 45 was a freelance art dealer. Or at least that’s what he claimed to be. He was very persuasive in assuming the part. His knowledge of fine art seemed to be infinite. In addition to being a supposed dealer he also played the role of a customer very well.
Originally from Vero Beach, Florida, Taylor moved to Agoura, California in 2005. It was there that he quickly became a patron of the Los Angeles Fine Art Gallery. Between the years of his arrival in California, up until his arrest, he made frequent trips between the two states.
In September, 2011 a Los Angeles federal grand jury indicted Taylor on seven felony charges linked to art thefts. The indictment also charged that he defrauded an art collector out of millions of dollars by selling him forged paintings.
One of the paintings taken from the Fine Art Gallery in Los Angeles was a Granville Redmond named “Seascape at Twilight” which he sold to another gallery in that city for $85,000. He also stole a painting by Lucien Frank titled “Park Scene, Paris” according to the indictment. He later claimed that the Redmond piece was originally owned by his mother for many years before it came into his possession.
Taylor was seen in Vero Beach, FL with the painting by Frank several years after it went missing, following his sale of the Redmond. It was there that he attempted to sell the painting to an individual, claiming it was painted by a different artist after erasing Frank’s signature from the piece and then substituting it with the other.
According to the indictment he also sold forged artworks to a collector, maintaining that they were authentic, and that they were painted by revered artists. He sold the naïve collector more than 100 paintings, including some that he deceptively claimed were painted by Jackson Pollock, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Mark Rothko. He received more than two million dollars from the collector throughout the swindle in 2005 and 2006.
Taylor established methods to evade paying more than $400,000 in federal income taxes that was owed to the IRS from the illicit sales. He also laundered and transported the profits of his fraud across state lines, including more than $100,000 that was acquired through transactions of four forged paintings, during the above-mentioned timeframe.
His manner of disguising the actual origin of the alleged masterpieces was to mark over or otherwise conceal the signatures of the actual artists replacing them with facsimiles of the famed originals. He also placed bogus labels on the paintings which deceitfully characterized that the paintings were at one time parts of prominent collections that were housed at well-known museums such as the Guggenheim Museum and Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Last August, a jury found Taylor guilty of five separate felonies as follows: possession of stolen property that had crossed state lines, two counts of tax evasion, structuring cash transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements while on pretrial release and, wire fraud.
On July 11, before federal district judge John A. Kronstadt for the Central District of California, Taylor was sentenced to 7 ½ years in federal prison for the crimes relating to the art theft, forgery scheme and tax evasion matters. He was also ordered to pay over 1.2 million in restitution in addition to over $100,000 to two art galleries. He also has to pay the IRS more than $1.1 million for back taxes including interest and penalties. Judge Kronstadt also ordered that after his prison term ended he would have to face a period of supervised release during which time he would be prohibited from working in or owning “any business involving antiques and or art” without the specific consent of a probation officer that would be assigned to him.
The investigation into Taylor was conducted by the IRS-Criminal Investigation Division, the LAPD’s Art Theft Detail which is responsible for the investigation of burglaries and thefts when fine art is the primary object of interest as well as investigating fakes, frauds, and forgeries, as well as the FBI’s Art Crime Team
The latest FBI press release regarding this case can be found by clicking here.
Thefts of items that ultimately cross state lines in their transport are federal offenses. If you or someone you know or love is being investigated on any federal charges such as those listed in this article or any others not associated with this precise case it is imperative that you secure an experienced defense attorney who is qualified in federal case law defense. An attorney who previously worked as an assistant federal prosecutor and knows the workings of the federal system can be a great asset in preparing a suitable defense no matter what federal issues or charges are being faced.
Mr. Cohen is a board certified criminal trial lawyer rated AV by Martindale Hubbel (pre-eminent) and a “Super Lawyer” recognized as being in the top 5% of his specialized field (criminal trial law) among Florida lawyers. He is considered a specialist by the Florida Bar in his field. Mr. Cohen has tried scores of cases over his 35 year career and is a member of the Florida and New York Bars. He practices in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami, among other counties. He is also admitted to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh and Second Circuit.
Mr. Cohen’s practice has recently expanded and he is now a partner in the prestigious law firm of McLaughlin & Stern, LLP. Through this partnership, Mr. Cohen can now lead your defense in the New York Metropolitan area in addition to the Broward, Dade, or Palm Beach County areas as well as all other jurisdictions throughout the state of Florida
Mr. Cohen is also listed in the 2013 edition of “Best Lawyers in America”