Art Dealer Charged With Defrauding Elderly Clients

An Ansel Adams photograph plays a big part here

Vintage camera
Some iconic photographs are at the heart of the case.
Randy Graf/Unsplash

There’s a particular elegance to the work of the art dealer — the process of selling a work of art, taking one’s own commission and passing along what is owned to the artist or seller. But sometimes this elegance can curdle into crime — especially if the dealer holds on to the money or the art. Because of the high sums that can be paid for notable works of art, the category of art world scams has plenty of notorious entries. But the latest example of one has a particularly unsettling twist.

A recent article at Hyperallergic recounts the case of Wendy Halsted Beard, owner of The Wendy Halsted Gallery in the town of Birmingham, Michigan. Earlier this month, the FBI arrested Beard on multiple charges of wire fraud. As per a press release, the FBI believes that there may be more people who were taken advantage of by Beard.

What, precisely, did she do? As Tresa Baldas of the Detroit Free Press writes, the FBI believes that Beard “scammed seniors by taking their rare art on consignment, selling it and then keeping all the profits.” According to the FBI, the value of the photographs involved in the case to date is $1.6 million.

This included a print of Ansel Adams’s The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, 1942, which Beard sold for $440,000 — without ever notifying the 82-year-old owner of the photo, or sending them the money they were owed from the sale. Beard is also accused of scamming an 89-year-old man with Alzheimer’s, among others.

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