Lawrence Salander, the art dealer who pleaded guilty to a $120 million fraud involving works of art and celebrity clients like John McEnroe, was sentenced to six years in prison yesterday. His lawyer revealed that his current wife (the mother of their four boys) left him and Salander sobbed in court, "I've lost my life, my business and my reputation. I'm utterly and completely disgraced."
Salander's troubles began when his Upper East Side gallery closed in 2007, after accusations from partners and clients that he sold their works without their permission. While he initially denied trouble, Salander was basically running a Ponzi scheme, selling the same interests in paintings over and over again. A prosecutor said, "Lawrence Salander is a pathological, self-absorbed con-man who betrayed friends, partners, investors, heirs and living artists," adding that Salander's scam was "a Ponzi scheme that would make Bernie Madoff proud."
However, his lawyer asked the judge for a break; Bloomberg News reports, "[Charles] Ross asked [New York State Supreme Court Justice Michael] Obus for leniency, calling the dealer a good man, who while addicted to alcohol and the painkiller Vicodin did bad things." And Ross said of the sentence, "Doing state time is much tougher than doing Federal time. There are older facilities and more violent inmates.”
Salander claimed to have tried to pay back his victims, but he didn't offer them a penny. Earl Davis—his father was the painter Stuart Davis (Salander stole $18 million of his paintings)—said, "If I'd been robbed at gunpoint or (by) a thief in the night, (it) would have been preferable."