LAPADA have set up an email alert system to warn members about fraudsters after an indepth investigation by the association led to a serial offender being caught and jailed. John Alderson of Seattle was convicted in the USA and has just been sentenced to 41 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He must also pay restitution of $146,000 to victims.
He pleaded guilty to fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud European art and antiques dealers after LAPADA chief executive John Newgas alerted Seattle police and the Metropolitan Police in London.
Mr Newgas, whose suspicions were first roused by complaints from a couple of LAPADA members concerning forged cheques, had spent several months putting together a dossier of evidence, which he passed on to the relevant authorities.
Fortunately, he also prevented another association member from being defrauded to the tune of $250,000.
“It was at the Olympia Summer Fine Art & Antiques Fair last year that I had to disappoint one of our members by informing him that the cheque he held was invalid,” explained Mr Newgas. “Although this was not welcome news, the result was that he did not lose his stock.”
“To be honest, we wouldn’t have known about this unless you had alerted us,” Detective Randy Woolery, of the Fraud & Forgery Squad, in Seattle Police Department, told Mr Newgas. Part of the problem was that Alderson’s initial frauds had not been for very large amounts and some of those who fell victim were too embarrassed to come forward, so the police were not alerted.
Mr Newgas is determined to clamp down on this type of crime. “It is important for conmen to know that trade associations such as LAPADA will pursue cases like this relentlessly,” he told the Antiques Trade Gazette. “It is vital that those who fall victim let us know as quickly as possible so we can act immediately. I realise that they may be embarrassed, but we would never divulge their identity and it means that colleagues with businesses nearby are not left at such risk.”
In the case of Alderson’s frauds, LAPADA quickly informed their membership as well as the BADA and SLAD. Now, Mr Newgas has set up an email alert system so that all those whose email addresses are lodged with LAPADA will be informed as part of an early warning process the moment any pattern of fraud emerges.
Those wanting to be included should send their email details to LAPADA at firstname.lastname@example.org