Art dealer Robert Cook faces up to 20 years in prison after being accused today of perpetrating a $4 million art fraud scheme against a single collector. The state alleges that Mr. Cook sold 16 paintings that he was holding for the collector, and never paid out a dollar. The work at issue include pieces by Picasso, Manet, Matisse, Renoir, Kandinsky, and Klee.
“Robert Cook portrayed himself as a responsible art dealer, but the allegations here paint a very different picture,” U.S. attorney Preet Bharara, who is allowed to use that “paint” joke only once a year. Mr. Bharara added, “Cook’s charade has now come to an end.” The thefts are alleged to have taken place between 2005 and 2011.
“Selling millions of dollars worth of someone else’s art collection and keeping the proceeds is effectively the same as stealing millions of dollars of the collector’s money,” FBI assistant director-in-charge Janice K. Fedarcyk said. “Both are forms of theft, plain and simple. The allegation of the complaint is that Mr. Cook is a crook.”