Dot Con: Richard Silver, Corcoran Broker Turned Unwitting Scammer, Goes to the Slammer

Richard Silver (Facebook)

Until very recently, Richard Silver was your average above-average New York real estate broker. The part-time photographer (his work was once shown at the Met) worked at Corcoran for over twelve years, eventually making vice-president. A member of the firm’s “Multi-Million Dollar Sales Club” for several consecutive years, Mr. Silver lived comfortably in Chelsea. While accustomed to walking around luxe Manhattan lofts, today Mr. Silver begins a two-month stint of island living… No, not Turks or Caicos but Rikers.  Today marks the first day of Mr. Silver’s sixty-day sentence for forgery.

The series of events that led to his appearance in Manhattan criminal court Tuesday began when , Mr. Silver—something of an amateur art dealer—purchased what he believed were sets of limited edition prints from Damien Hirst’s much-ballyhooed “spot” collection in 2006 from a California dealer. The dealer, Vincent Lopreto, turned out to be a serial fraudster who was himself sentenced to prison in 2008.

Back in 2006, however, Mr. Silver had no reason to believe the prints were fake, as Mr. Lopreto had given him certificates of authenticity. Before sending the prints to buyers across the globe, Mr. Silver wanted to insure the shipments. In order to obtain insurance authorization, however, Mr. Silver was required to have the prints individually appraised.

According to his lawyer Vinoo Varghese,  Mr. Silver took one set to his friend Marla Kennedy at Hamburg Kennedy, an art advisory service based in a Murray Hill penthouse. Ms. Kennedy told Mr. Silver that the set of prints was authentic, Mr. Varghese claims.  Instead of returning to have the other sets individually appraised, Mr. Silver falsified the insurance documents when he shipped the pieces to eBay buyers, claiming the value of each print had been individually verified by Ms. Kennedy.

Ms. Kennedy’s attorney and husband Henry Weil, denies vehemently that Ms. Kennedy ever appraised anything for Mr Silver at any time– “She never appraised anything for this guy,” he wrote in an e-mail. “She never saw anything brought her by Richard Silver. Nothing. Never.”

In the end, all the prints were fakes. When people started calling Mr. Silver, he refunded clients via paypal.

One disgruntled client called the New York district attorney’s office. A criminal investigation was launched, with prosecutors initially believing Mr. Silver was heading a complex counterfeiting scheme. In the end, however, Mr. Silver was plead guilty only to falsifying the shipping appraisals, but was ordered to pay $84,000 in restitution to the clients.

“He cut corners,” said Mr. Varghese, “but never intended to sell counterfeit art.”

Tuesday, Mr. Silver went before a Manhattan criminal court judge and, as part of a negotiated plea-deal, was sentenced to sixty days at Rikers Island in a separate facility for non-violent offenders. As part of his sentence, Mr. Silver will teach other inmates job preparedness skills, his lawyer said.

Since his arrest, Mr. Silver was let go from his position at Corcoran. Mr. Varghese claims Mr. Silver only learned he was fired after reading it in The Post. “He made a lot of money for that company over the years, and this is how they treat him?”