Dealer Pleads Guilty In Art Scam
SAN DIEGO (AP) _ A former art dealer pleaded guilty to six counts of grand theft for selling counterfeit paintings, just as witnesses were prepared to testify in a preliminary hearing.
Louis Almeida, 49, owner of the Brentwood Gallery, made his plea Tuesday before San Diego Municipal Court Judge Robert Cooney.
Cooney allowed Almeida to remain free on his own recognizance on condition that he not purchase, sell, or trade any art work unless he has permission from the district attorney’s office.
Almeida was charged Feb. 9 with 12 counts of grand theft stemming from allegations he sold forgeries of paintings by the late Western artist Olaf Wieghorst.
Deputy District Attorney Lantz Lewis said Almeida faces a maximum sentence of seven years and four months in state prison. Six other grand theft counts were dismissed. The defendant’s attorney, Leif Tessem, requested a sentencing date of July 20. He said Almeida wanted time to try to raise $90,000 to pay back forgery victims before he is sentenced.
Lewis said the scheme came to light after one of Almeida’s customers became suspicious and took a Wieghorst painting he had purchased to the artist and his son to authenticate.
Wieghorst cooperated in the forgery investigation before his death in April 1988 at age 88.