Accused art dealer charged in $86 million charity scam

Suspicious US law enforcement agencies have charged art dealer Hildebrandt von Prondzynski with orchestrating a $86 million scheme that bilked wealthy donors of funds meant for nonprofits. In an indictment filed Friday, federal prosecutors…

Accused art dealer charged in $86 million charity scam

Suspicious US law enforcement agencies have charged art dealer Hildebrandt von Prondzynski with orchestrating a $86 million scheme that bilked wealthy donors of funds meant for nonprofits.

In an indictment filed Friday, federal prosecutors in Manhattan detailed a series of bogus email exchanges that revealed how von Prondzynski used a mass email system to expedite millions of dollars of payments to his friends and family members using the identities of victims.

According to the documents, von Prondzynski’s scheme ranged from November 2014 to November 2016. It involved 30 institutions and donors, including the New York Public Library, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, Samaritan Village in New Dorp, and even some Caribbean museums.

His two-year scheme cost the institutions $86 million — and kept them on the hook for the additional $30 million that they had planned to pay him to rent storage space, according to the indictment.

“On many occasions, von Prondzynski would instruct a beneficiary beneficiary to forward a communication to the recipient’s email account for that beneficiary,” the papers read. The recipient would then forward the communication to von Prondzynski’s secret “mailing list” for back up messages.

The indictment did not explain the motive of the victim organizations or the beneficiaries, and CNN has not been able to contact them. A spokesperson for Carnegie Hall said that they had no comment.

“Mr. von Prondzynski pleaded guilty to various charges in a federal court in Manhattan. He faces 15 years in prison at sentencing, and we are pleased to see him punished for his crimes,” von Prondzynski’s lawyer, William Henderson, said in a statement to CNN. “He was in a perfect storm of circumstances, but he takes full responsibility for his actions. He intends to fight the charges.”

The indictment listed several related criminal violations, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, nine counts of money laundering, and seven counts of violating the Anti-money Laundering Act, according to court records.

Last year, von Prondzynski pleaded guilty to fraud in Delaware where he ran the Céramique Art Gallery and a nonprofit. Then-Delaware attorney general Matt Denn alleged that von Prondzynski used the donations from a Hermès charity and the Dutch auction house to fund a lavish lifestyle.

Because von Prondzynski’s final acts of fraud were carried out in New York, von Prondzynski entered a not guilty plea in federal court on Friday, and was given a bail package that included a list of conditions, including notifying authorities if he changes his residence, while awaiting sentencing, scheduled for June 14.

He was also ordered to turn over all property in his name to the government, including paintings, art loans, electronics, and vehicles.

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