"I have lost my life, my business, and my reputation. I am utterly and completely disgraced," Lawrence Salander said to those gathered yesterday in the New York State Supreme Court for the final chapter in the sad, shameful saga of the art dealer's fall from art-world grace. Justice Michael J. Obus handed down a sentence of six to 18 years in prison to the defendant – who appeared hunched and poorly-shaven in court, wearing an unzipped hooded sweatshirt — and called for Salander to pay $114 million in restitution to the victims of his massive art scam.
The once-admired dealer of Old Master to modern paintings, who pleaded guilty in March to accusations of a $120 million art fraud, rampantly abused the trust of such high-profile collectors as John McEnroe, the estate of Robert DeNiro Sr. (the actor's father), and Earl Davis (son of painter Stuart Davis) — often cultivating relationships with them over many years only to pitilessly drain their holdings, a style recalling Bernie Madoff. At the trial, the New York Times reports, victims conveyed their emotional devastation at the hands of the wily man they and their families had come to trust deeply, and who had then abused that trust.
Justice Obus ordered that the 61-year-old defendant, reduced to tears in the courtroom, serve the maximum term outlined in the plea agreement — disregarding Salander’s lawyer’s request for leniency in respect to his client’s ailing health. He also demanded the staggering financial penalty, despite the fact that the now-destitute Salander will most likely never be able to raise such a sum. Salander-O’Reilly Galleries, the dealer's Upper East Side operation — which pleaded guilty to grand larceny and other charges — meanwhile saw a disappointing sale of most of its remaining art holdings at a June auction at Christie’s
"First I want to apologize to the victims of my crimes," Salander said in court yesterday, according to the Times. "I know that I have wronged you and I am truly ashamed of my behavior. You trusted me and I betrayed out and I am deeply sorry for the pain and loss my actions have caused you."
But it seems that whatever Salander might suffer will be enough to appease the victims of his deceptions. "Had I been robbed at gunpoint or by a thief in the night," Davis told the paper, "it would have been preferable to the ruthlessly drawn out torture that he inflicted upon me."