LOS ANGELES (CN) - The elderly and infirm widow of Russian dissident artist Evgeny Rukhin claims the owner of Coliseum Antiques defrauded her of 18 of her late husband's paintings to sell them at unreasonably low prices to his son, who then tried to flip them for their true value through international auction houses.
Galina Popova claims in Superior Court that gallery owner George Hajian, aka Kevork, did her out of the paintings and "sold" them to his son, Ara Hajian. Popova says that her late husband's paintings fetch as much as $250,000 apiece.
Popova says that George Hajian and his wife, defendant Kara Hajian, preyed upon her debilities and used undue influence to make her sign an agreement she did not understand concerning six Rukhin paintings.
She claims that while she was in a mentally befuddled state, Hajian took the six paintings, claiming he wanted to show them, and with the understanding that he had no right to sell them. She claims that he took another dozen paintings and created a "second document" - a false receipt for them - setting arbitrarily low values for them.
George and Kara Hajian then sold the paintings "without her permission at below market value," the complaint states. "George and Kara Hajian purported to 'sell' certain of the Rukhins to their son Ara Hajian, at prices well below fair market value."
Popova says she "subsequently learned that the Hajians had been attempting to sell her Rukhins directly through Ara Hajian and through international auction houses in London and New York, and purported to have authority to do so based on the aforementioned receipt and second document which the Hajians now claim constitute an enforceable agreement."
Represented by Stanton Stein with Dreier Stein Kahan, Popova demands punitive damages for fraud, conspiracy, conversion, unjust enrichment and other charges.
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