Massachusetts Man Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Connecticut Art Dealer
John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Brian C. Turner, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced that HAROLD GORDON, 69, of Templeton, Massachusetts, waived his right to be indicted and pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer in New Haven to one count of wire fraud.
According to court documents and statements made in court, in approximately October 2012, Gordon began communicating by phone and email with a respected art dealer and appraiser (the “victim”) in Connecticut, to induce the victim to purchase a tall antique desk, commonly known as a “secretary desk.” In these communications, Gordon falsely represented to the victim that the desk was decorated and dedicated as a Civil War memorial for a Connecticut soldier who died at the Battle of Antietam while fighting for the Union Army. These misrepresentations included Gordon’s claims that the surviving soldiers in the fallen soldier’s Connecticut regiment had crafted the desk to serve as a war memorial for the deceased soldier’s family; that other than cleaning the vintage clock, Gordon had done nothing else to refurbish or decorate the desk; and that Gordon had purchased the desk from a descendant of the deceased Connecticut soldier.
In early March 2014, the victim examined the secretary desk at Gordon’s Massachusetts residence, and then took subsequent steps to confirm the desk’s authenticity. The victim then purchased the desk from Gordon for $64,500. At Gordon’s request, the victim provided the payment in three separate checks.
In February 2015, the victim sold the desk to a museum and non-profit institution in Connecticut. After completing this transaction, the victim sent Gordon an additional payment of $25,000 because the victim had made a significant profit from the sale.
In February 2018, various third parties made inquiries to the victim about the authenticity of the secretary desk. The victim contacted Gordon, who admitted that he had refurbished and decorated the desk himself, created the false narrative about the desk’s history, and targeted the victim to purchase it due to the victim’s respected stature in the American folk art community. The victim then made full restitution to the institution that had purchased the desk from him.
Judge Meyer scheduled sentencing for April 23, 2019, at which time Gordon faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.
This matter has been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Chen.