Rocco DeSimone, a former art dealer based in Rhode Island, has been sentenced to 16 years in prison and ordered to pay $6 million in restitution, after being found guilty of money laundering and mail fraud stemming from a vast investment scam he organized, the Associated press reports today.
The federal court in Providence, Rhode Island, also ordered the confiscation of a 1915 Renoir painting, called Paysage a Cagnes, as part of an effort to compensate investors who lost millions in Mr. DeSimone’s scam.
Interestingly, Mr. DeSimone’s crime did not involve art or antiques, but instead centered on an invention called the Drink Stik, designed to allow people wearing gas masks or respirators–soldiers in potentially hazardous environments, for instance–to sip beverages from a container attached to the device.
The court found that Mr. DeSimone told the inventor of the Drink Stik that he would sell it to investor friends in exchange for a one-third share of the product, and then approached would-be financiers, falsely saying that multibillion-dollar corporations had made bids on the product in order to attract their interest. He used their investment dollars to buy art (including the Renoir), Japanese swords, and sports cars.