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Auctioneer Calls Ann Sothern Relics Phony

DALLAS (CN) - L.A. Prop & Wardrobe Co., of Mississippi, made "hundreds of thousands of dollars" by consigning phony Ann Sothern memorabilia for sale through Heritage Auction Galleries, Heritage claims in Dallas County Court. Heritage claims L.A. Prop owners John Tarter, of Nampa, Ind., and Billie Hugh Null, of Marion, Miss., ran the scam that cost Heritage plenty in refunds and damage to its reputation.

Also sued are Studio West Prop & Wardrobe, of Bakersfield, Calif., also owned by Tarter. Heritage claims to be "the world's largest collectible auctioneer." It claims Tarter and Null consigned it items, allegedly from the Ann Sothern collection, with letters of authenticity that had nothing to do with the items consigned. When Heritage found out it had been duped, it says, it offered customers full refunds, plus 6 percent interest. But an unhappy customer went to the media. Now, Heritage says, it is out the cost of the refunds plus the damage to its reputation.

"LA Prop, Tarter and Null ... made hundreds of thousands of dollars piggy-backing on Heritage's solid reputation as a trusted auction house," the complaint states.

Represented by David Elrod, Heritage demands punitive damages for fraud and breach of contract.

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