LOS ANGELES – LawFuel.com – A Florida man who sold paintings stolen from a Los Angeles art gallery – and who took elaborate steps to avoid paying taxes over several years – has been sentenced to 90 months in federal prison for the art-related and tax offenses.
Matthew Taylor, 45, of Vero Beach, Florida, was sentenced yesterday afternoon by United States District Judge John A. Kronstadt.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Kronstadt ordered Taylor to pay $1,244,190 in restitution – $106,152 to two art galleries, and $1,138,038 to the Internal Revenue Service for back taxes, penalties and interest. The judge also ordered that during the period of supervised release following his prison term, Taylor may not work in or own “any business involving antiques and or art” without the approval of a probation officer.
Taylor was found guilty by a federal jury in August 2012 of five separate federal felonies, including wire fraud, possession of stolen property which had crossed state lines, and two counts of tax evasion for the years 2005 and 2006. The jury also convicted Taylor of structuring cash transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements by making $226,000 in cash withdrawals in smaller amounts so as to avoid possible seizure of the funds by authorities – and found that he committed the structuring offense while free on bond in the art fraud case.
The evidence presented at trial showed that Taylor stole several paintings from the Los Angeles Fine Art Gallery, including a Granville Redmond painting called “Seascape at Twilight” and an untitled painting by Lucien Frank. Taylor later sold the Redmond painting to a different gallery for $85,000, falsely claiming that his mother had owned it for several years. Taylor took the Frank painting to Florida, erased Frank’s signature from the artwork, and then attempted to sell the painting to an art collector, claiming it was by a different artist.
The evidence presented at trial also showed that Taylor took elaborate steps to evade paying more than $400,000 in federal income taxes owed for 2005 and 2006, including creating bogus companies with names similar to well known companies (like Microsoft), using false social security numbers to hide his bank accounts, and using post office boxes to open other post office boxes to use as mail drops. Taylor also moved money to an off-shore bank account in the Bahamas as part of his attempts to evade the payment of taxes. Taylor falsely claimed that his mother had controlled all of his bank accounts and LLCs, and that he had relied on her to file tax returns for him – even though she was in failing health and suffering from dementia.
Taylor’s “repeated attempts to blame his mother for his crimes are demonstrative of his history and characteristics,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo filed with the court. “In short, defendant has demonstrated that he is a con man, a thief, a tax-cheat, and a liar, who has no compunctions about using others (such as his girlfriend) and blaming others (such as his mother or his pretrial officer) if it is to his advantage. He has steadfastly refused to accept responsibility for his crimes, and has repeatedly acknowledged that he moved money around to avoid seizure by the IRS.”
The investigation into Taylor was conducted by the FBI’s Art Crime Team, the Los Angeles Police Department’s Art Theft Detail, and IRS Criminal Investigation.