Grossman LLP, a firm specializing in art law, won a court ruling against art dealer Fred Dorfman late last week. Dorfman had been the dealer for James Meyer, Jasper Johns’s former studio assistant who pled guilty in 2014 to interstate transportation of stolenJohns artworks (many of which were unfinished). Meyer received an 18 month jail sentence and was ordered to pay restitution. Of the 83 pieces of art Meyer stole from Johns, Dorfman sold 42 for a total of $9m, including $5.99m in “commissions” for Dorfman.
Grossman’s client, Equinox Gallery, purchased one of the stolen works for $800,000. In last week’s ruling, Judge George B. Daniels held that Equinox had adequately alleged the types of activity that can support viable RICO claims, the Court rejected Dorfman’s attempt to paint the alleged plot as “a discrete scheme with a narrow purpose”
“[Dorfman’s characterization of the fraud allegations] ignores the magnitude of Plaintiff’s allegation that Meyer and Dorfman worked in tandem to defraud more than twenty victims over six years to the tune of more than $9 million.”
Daniels ruling in Dorfman’s motion to dismiss allows Grossman to sue Dorfman for treble damages (i.e., $2.4 million) and attorney’s fees, as well as punitive damages on the fraud and civil RICO claims. According to Grossman, “this is an important ruling in the context of art-fraud cases, given the heightened pleading standard for such claims.”