A Greene County Court jury has found the former owner of a Cairo auction house guilty of grand larceny for failing to pay an art owner the auction proceeds she was planning to use to finance her mother’s nursing home care.
It took five hours for the jury to render a guilty verdict Thursday against 46-year-old Anthony Bonneau, the previous owner of T’s Family Auction on Edwards Road in Cairo.
Greene County District Attorney Terry J. Wilhelm said it was an unusual case with an unfortunate ending.
It all started when California resident Valerie Ducos commissioned Bonneau to sell the artwork of her grandfather, the celebrated Works Progress Administration artist James Michael Newell.
Newell’s murals, which depicted the social scene of the nation at the time, have been exhibited and placed in permanent collections at the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian, the White House and the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as other institutions.
The brochure handed out at the Oct. 24, 2009 preview had announced that more than “300 original paintings, watercolors and drawings” by Newell would be up for auction. The brouchure went on to describe the auction as a “rare opportunity to purchase significant investment art.”
Wilhelm said Bonneau auctioned the artwork for $40,455 on Oct. 25, 2009, and after taking out his $16,182 commission, owed Ducos more than $24,000.
“She basically never got a penny from all of this stuff, which she felt was worth way more than what they sold for,” Wilhelm said Friday.
Ducos testified at the trial that at the time she had commissioned Bonneau, he told her he was planning to hold the auction in New York City. Wilhelm said the plans changed several times after that.
“She came in (to New York) for the auction and was very disappointed. She had been promised a lot of things, and (the auction) was ultimately held at the Cairo Hose Company, with only 25 people attending,” Wilhelm said. “It was extremely poorly done in the beginning. The art work went for way less than it should have.”
A month after the auction, Wilhelm said, Ducos got a letter from Bonneau, who apologized for not having sent the money. Enclosed was a check, which Wilhelm said bounced.
“It’s a case of a guy being a total crook,” he said, adding that Ducos believed her grandfather’s murals were worth as much as $100,000. She had planned to use the money to pay for her mother’s residency at a nursing home.
According to Wilhelm, Ducos is from the Woodstock area, and her grandparents had a home there.
Calls to Bonneau’s Albany attorney, Paul Devane, were not returned. The number for T’s Family Auction in Cairo has been temporarily disconnected.
Bonneau, who is out on bail, is scheduled to be sentenced June 29.