PONTIAC, Mich. (CN) – Twenty-seven people say Park West Galleries and Plymouth Auctioneering Services sold them phony art and forged prints, claiming they were by Picasso, Chagall, Dali and other renowned artists. It’s the latest in a multiyear string of complaints accusing Park West of bilking people on cruise ships.
The buyers say they bought the bogus prints, drawings and etches on a cruise ship or at a land auction, and that the works were accompanied by appraisals and “Certificates of Authenticity” signed by Park West’s CEO, Albert Scaglione.
The buyers, who live in the United States and England, say that Park West and Plymouth persuaded them to purchase the works by claiming they were a “good investment” and through bogus appraisals.
Plaintiff Ronald Woody III says that he bought almost $1 million in artwork from Park West, including several signed Salvador Dali prints.
He claims that Park West and Plymouth lied about the rarity and value of the works, which are “worth only a small fraction of the purchase price.” He adds that all of the Dali prints he bought “contain fraudulent signatures, and are therefore worthless.”
Plaintiff Tom Ungar claims he was led to believe he had bought a “mixed media drawing” by Marc Chagall worth $160,000, for which he paid $84,375.
Ungar says the Chicago Appraisers Association told him the work was inconsistent with a Chagall, that it was full of mistakes and that it was done on the “back of a Chagall lithograph cut out from a book.”
He says the appraisers told him that it is “doubtful the artist would deface a book to obtain a surface to draw upon.”
Other plaintiffs say they too paid thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of dollars for prints with forged signatures or for fabricated works misattributed to famous artists.
The buyers say that Plymouth employed the auctioneers who sold the Park West art on cruise ships and that Plymouth auctioneers are trained to rig promotional raffles and lie to sell the fabrications. They claim that Plymouth is a shell company for Park West, “created for liability, tax and other reasons,” and that the auctioneers are, in reality, hired and trained by Park West.
“Park West has become notorious for selling fraudulent, forged, misrepresented, fake and grossly overpriced artwork to unsuspecting customers on cruise ships, at land auctions, and from its gallery located in Southfield, Michigan,” according to the complaint in Oakland County Court.
The plaintiffs add that Park West is being sued by art buyers across the country and is under investigation by “numerous law enforcement agencies.” The Courthouse News database contains more than a dozen such complaints against the gallery.
The plaintiffs demand damages from Park West, Plymouth and Scaglione, and from Park West’s “gallery director” Morris Shapiro and its owner Albert Molina, alleging fraud, conversion, breach of contract, breach of warranty, unjust enrichment, conspiracy, negligence, emotional distress, and violations of Michigan’s Warranty in Fine Arts Statute, Consumer Protection Act and Art Multiples Sales Act.
Their lead counsel is Donald Payton with Kaufman Payton & Chapa of Farmington Hills.