New Yorker Thomas Doyle pleaded guilty on Monday to wire fraud in the $880,000 deal of a Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot painting, according to Courthouse News Service. Mr. Doyle inflated the price of the painting to an un-named victim, saying they could have it for $1.1 million. Mr. Doyle contributed $220,000 for a 20 percent share. He then claimed falsely that there was another potential buyer willing to shell out $1.7 million for the painting.
Prosecutors said there was no second buyer and Doyle had purchased the painting for $775,000. According to the New York Times, an appraiser said the painting would sell at auction in the range of $500,000 to $700,000
Mr. Doyle, 53, will be sentenced on October 11 and has agreed to return the $880,000 as well as—and here it gets a bit strange—a 1993 Ferrari.
Corot’s painting has a history like something out of a Sherlock Holmes novel, and it all centers around Mr. Doyle. Last year one of the painting’s co-owners along with Mr. Doyle, Kristyn Trudgeon, sued her sales agent, James Carl Haggerty over the disappearance of the Corot masterpiece. Mr. Haggerty took the painting to Mark Hotel in Manhattan so it could be examined by a potential buyer. Upon arriving home, the painting had gone missing. On security tapes, Mr. Haggerty stumbles out of the hotel at 12:50 am with the painting, noticeably intoxicated. A security camera at his apartment building shows him arriving at 2:30 am without the Corot. Ms. Trudgeon dropped her complaint against Mr. Haggerty after realizing that Mr. Doyle was a convicted art thief. Apparently, she saw his mug shot and recognized him as her co-owner. The painting was later found by a doorman in a bush across the street from, of all places, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. By this time, Mr. Doyle had been indicted on wire fraud charges. The Daily Mail reported that Ms. Trudgeon and Mr. Doyle were romantically involved.
Mr. Doyle’s criminal record, according to the Times, includes grand larceny in the third degree. In 2007, he pleaded guilty in the theft of a Degas sculpture, for which he served time in prison. He faces up to 20 years for all this mess.