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Art dealer sentenced to jail for $120 million fraud

By Cassie Spodak, CNN
  • Art dealer is sentenced to six to 18 years in prison for defrauding clients
  • Lawrence Salander funded a lavish lifestyle with his fraud
  • Prosecutors said he sold artwork that didn't belong to him and kept the money

New York (CNN) -- A former New York City art gallery owner has been sentenced to six to 18 years in state prison for defrauding clients of $120 million, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said.

"This significant prison term reflects the financial and emotional damage inflicted upon the families and owners victimized by the defendant," Vance said in a statement Tuesday. "Lawrence Salander's widespread fraud and calculated betrayal created ripples that spread from individual victims to the broader art world."

Salander pleaded guilty in March to 30 felony counts of grand larceny and scheming to defraud, according to Vance's statement.

Salandar's attorney, Charles A. Ross, described the emotional sentencing hearing Tuesday, with his client breaking down in court and admitting that he was separated from his wife.

Ross told CNN Wednesday that his client "will pay his debt to society. He will continue to make all efforts to provide restitution to his victims and I am confident he will go on to lead a law abiding and productive life."

Although Salander was unable to immediately raise money for restitution, he is "deeply remorseful and extremely sorry for his actions that hurt so many people. He tried very, very hard to raise restitution," Ross said.

Salander's 29 victims, according to court documents, include tennis star John McEnroe and Robert DeNiro Sr., the actor's father.

Salander, 60, admitted to defrauding his clients, many of whom were close friends, for approximately $120 million in a scheme that lasted just over two years, ending in November 2007.

The money financed a luxurious lifestyle, with lavish parties and frequent trips to Europe in a private jet.

Salander got the funds by selling artwork that he didn't own and keeping the money, the district attorney's office said. He also enriched himself by luring investors in fraudulent investment opportunities, the office said.

Salander admitted in court that in one instance, to secure a $2 million personal loan from Bank of America, he offered pieces owned by others, including McEnroe, as security by providing phony documents to make it appear that he and his wife owned the art.

CNN's Edmund DeMarche contributed to this report.