After three years, art fraudster still owes more than $1 million

Written By kom nampuldu on Selasa, 03 Februari 2015 | 18.18

Art fraudster Leigh Morse still hasn't paid back $1.2 million she helped pilfer from artists' estates with her notorious boss, Lawrence Salander, although more than three years have passed since a judge ordered her to do so.

"Her restitution tab to date is over a million dollars. She has paid, to date, $22,000, in cash, 2.2 percent," said visibly frustrated Prosecutor Kenn Kern. "What's so unbelievably upsetting and appalling is that every time you give very clear directions somehow we end up back here."

A jury convicted Morse in 2011 of selling more than 80 works from four estates without notifying them when she was director at the Salander-O'Reilly Galleries. She was acquitted of the top charge of grand larceny for pocketing $77,000 from the sale of two works by painter Robert De Niro Sr., owned by his son, actor Robert De Niro.

The art schemer was sentenced to four months in jail and restitution of $1.73 million, which she was ordered to pay in yearly installments that should total $1.2 million by now.

Although she owns a vacation home in Pennsylvania and an apartment on the Upper West Side, she hasn't tried to sell them.

Prosecutors asked the judge to toss Morse back in jail Monday for defaulting on her restitution agreement. But the Upper East Side gallery owner showed up to court with a new attorney who begged for more time.

"We expect to be able to pay a substantial sum of money within the next 45 days," said defense lawyer Robert Berutti. "We hope $200,000 dollars."

"She should be selling anything that can be sold," said Manhattan Supreme Court justice Michael Obus. "This is frustrating and changing counsel has not helped things."

Morse is due back in court March 20 and could be sentenced to as much as 4 years behind bars.

Salander, who scammed a total of $120 million, got six to 18 years in prison, and is penniless.

Additional reporting by Rebecca Rosenberg


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