A conman art dealer who swindled £1million out of wealthy clients by selling them famous paintings he didn’t own has been jailed for two and a half years.
Andrew Parkinson, 49, used his respected gallery in Street, Somerset, to broker sales of original works by leading artists including Damien Hirst, Rolf Harris and Jack Vettriano.
But in many cases he would take prints or paintings from customers on the pretence of arranging their sale – but would fail to sell or return them.
He would also sell the same piece of artwork to several clients but fail to deliver it to any of them, while he lived a ”high life” of fancy cars, holidays and designer clothes.
He pleaded guilty to 23 counts of theft, one count of participating in fraudulent business carried on by a sole trader and one count of fraud.
Parkinson, who now lives in Norwich, Norfolk, also pleaded guilty to eight counts of obtaining property by deception relating to times he took money from clients for artworks he never intended to deliver.
On Tuesday Judge Graham Hume Jones sentenced him to 30 months imprisonment at Taunton Crown Court.
The court heard the charges relate to £300,000 worth of fraud – but victims estimated his total deceit could exceed £1million.
Parkinson built up a trusted client base at his shop, the Street Gallery in Street, Somerset.
The charges, which span almost a decade from 1999 to 2008, involve works by Damien Hirst, Rolf Harris, Jack Vettriano, Robert Taylor, and Archibald Thorburn, among others – many of which were worth tens of thousands of pounds.
Speaking after the sentencing one of his victims, who did not want to be named, said he’d ”got off lightly” after ”ruining people’s lives”.
She said: ”These people will never get their money back. I think he got off lightly, considering that he’s ruined lives.
”He’s had the best of everything, fancy holidays, fancy cars, designer clothes, and he’s still not said sorry to anybody.
”He just had a complete disregard for everybody else. In the long haul I’m happy because tonight that man is going to be in a cell, but I do think he’s got off lightly.
”He deliberately went around defrauding people who thought he was their friend.”
One of his victims, who did not want to be named, said the dealer would begin a relationship with a client by legitimately supplying them with paintings to build up their trust.
He said: ”Around mid 2006 he started taking deposits or full payment for pictures that never arrived.
”He would fabricate a story as to why he needed a deposit or full payment for a painting before he would give it to you.
”Ultimately he would then sell the same paintings he had already taken deposits or full payment for to numerous people. He would sell them over and over again.
”The best example is Damian Hirst’s Olamine – basically he sold the same picture to at least six people.
”There were numerous people who were defrauded out of tens of thousands of pounds – I was one of them. Many of us have been in contact and we believe he acquired over £1 million fraudulently.”