Celebrity Art Dealer Charged for Allegedly Ripping Off High Profile Clients

Perry Rubenstein is being held on $1 million bail

Photo: Stefanie Keenan/WireImage

Los Angeles art dealer Perry Rubentstein has been arrested and charged with three counts of grand theft by embezzlement, according to reports.

In court of Friday, Rubenstein, 62, pleaded not guilty and was held on $1 million bond, ABC 7 reports.

“There are no criminal charges to be made here. This is a civil matter,” Rubenstein’s lawyer Steve Sitkoff told the network. “I think it’s ironic that they’ve decided to charge him with criminal counts based on civil matters that have been resolved.”

Rubenstein’s Thursday arrest reportedly comes after a trail of legal disputes, which left his reputation damaged, and the charges stem from allegations that Rubenstein failed to pay over $1 million for artwork connected to Eli Broad and Michael Ovits, two prominent art collectors in Los Angeles.

Around the time that Rubenstein moved to LA – in 2011 – he was involved in a sale that ultimately resulted in legal trouble, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The sale in question was that of a scroll titled “The World of Sphere,” by artist Takashi Murakami. Massachusetts based art collector Michael Salke reportedly contracted with Rubenstein to sell the piece for $750,000, but Rubenstein told Salke that a buyer was willing to pay $630,000 for the piece.

According to the newspaper payments were made in installments that totaled $575,000. Rubenstein then reportedly attempted to add $20,000 to his commission, which is when Salke filed a lawsuit.

As the suit progressed, it was revealed that the buyer – Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation – had actually purchased the scroll for $825,000.

Rubenstein never paid Salke the full amount received for the sale, the Times reports.

The reports added that the other counts come from an agreement Rubenstein made with Ovitz – who co-founded Creative Artists Agency and served as president of the Walt Disney Co. in the past – to sell two pieces by Richard Prince, which together are worth over $1 million.

One sell was reportedly completed and the painting was said to have been bought by a buyer in Mexico for $500,00, but Ovitz never received payment and the piece has since been sold again to someone in France. The second piece was sold shortly after the first, but Ovitz had reportedly set the minimum price at $575,000. Rubenstein allegedly sold the piece for $475,00, without first getting an okay from Ovitz and reportedly kept the money from both sales.

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