A New York woman who sued her sales agent over the disappearance of a $1.4 million Corot painting decided to drop her complaint after concluding a convicted art thief in a mug shot was the artwork’s co-owner, her lawyer said.
The woman, Kristyn Trudgeon, sued the agent, James Carl Haggerty, a friend of the painting’s co-owner Thomas Doyle, claiming he had told Doyle, 53, that he’d lost Corot’s “Portrait of a Girl” after a night of drinking.
After filing the lawsuit on Aug. 30, her lawyer Max DiFabio showed her a mug shot yesterday of a Thomas Doyle, who’d pleaded guilty in 2007 in the theft of a Degas sculpture and was released from prison in December.
“A photograph was provided to us by a member of the press,” DiFabio, the lawyer, said. “I asked my client to determine whether it was the same Tom Doyle. She answered in the affirmative.”
The 19th-Century painting belonged to the Armand Hammer Collection in Los Angeles until 2007, when it became part of an “anonymous collection,” according to an exhibit on the artwork’s history filed with Trudgeon’s complaint.
A Thomas Doyle was charged in New York in 2006 with grand larceny and possession of stolen property in connection with a bronze Degas sculpture from New York art collector Norman Alexander. Doyle posed as a member of an art-collecting family to befriend Alexander, owner of “Danseuse Regardant le Plant de son Pied Droit,” a sculpture of a dancer looking at the sole of her foot, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said.
Doyle was accused of taking the piece in 2004 and selling it for $225,000. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to serve a maximum of five years in state prison, according to Erin Duggan, a spokeswoman for the district attorney. Doyle was paroled Dec. 7, state Department of Correctional Services records show.
At the time of the Degas case, then-Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau called Doyle “a very talented con man.”
Duggan declined to comment on whether the Corot matter is being investigated.
Doyle also was convicted in February 2000 of transporting $200,000 in jewelry stolen from a Tennessee woman, New York prosecutors said.
In a 2005 lawsuit filed in New York state Supreme Court against Thomas A. Doyle III, Alexander, owner of the bronze Degas sculpture, was granted a judgment of more than $500,000. Doyle at the time was residing at Leavenworth Detention Center in Kansas.
Co-owner Doyle had Haggerty take a polygraph test after the loss of the painting, according to an exhibit attached to the Aug. 30 complaint. The results of the test were sent to Thomas A. Doyle III, at an Empire State Building address, the exhibit shows.
DiFabio didn’t identify the journalist who provided the mug shot. He declined to say whether his client would file a criminal complaint.
The New York Police Department said that no criminal complaint had been filed in the Corot case. Calls for comment to Doyle’s cell phone weren’t returned.
Haggerty’s Manhattan address, listed on the complaint, belongs to Simon Mills, chief executive officer of LMG digitalMedia, according to records filed with the New York City Department of Finance. Haggerty lived at the apartment in July, paying $6,400 rent, Mills said in a phone interview.
“He was my tenant for a short period of time,” Mills said. “He’s been gone since Aug. 1. He said something happened with his sister, and he couldn’t go on.”
Mills didn’t have a home telephone number for Haggerty.
Doyle New York, a privately held auction house, said a Tom Doyle has associated himself with it without authorization.
“For about 10 years, we have heard from various people around the country, stories that he has been trading on our name, fraudulently identifying himself as a member of the Doyle family,” said Louis Webre, a spokesman for the Doyle house. “He is definitely not related to the Doyle family.”
The company was founded by William Doyle in 1962. He died in 1993. Kathleen Doyle inherited the company from her late husband and has been chairman and chief executive since his death. They have three daughters.
“We have a reputation for integrity, expertise and professionalism,” said Webre. “The stories we’ve heard are of concern to us.”
Trudgeon’s lawsuit said that on July 28, co-owner Doyle learned that a London dealer was interested in the Corot. The suit said the dealer, Doyle and Haggerty met that day at an office Doyle had in the Empire State Building with the painting.
The dealer, Offer Waterman, asked to examine it further with ultraviolet black light, the suit said. Haggerty, on Doyle’s instructions, took the painting to the Mark Hotel on New York’s Upper East Side to show Waterman. The suit said Haggerty spent almost two hours in a bar at the Mark -- first with the dealer, then without.
Waterman thought the Corot was genuine but didn’t pursue it, said the dealer’s lawyer, Mark Maurice. Waterman may have been dissatisfied with the price or condition, the lawyer said.
At 12:50 a.m., Haggerty stumbled out the hotel’s front door with the painting, according to Trudgeon’s complaint. He arrived at his apartment building an hour and 40 minutes later empty-handed, according to the suit.
The case is Trudgeon v. Haggerty, 111583/2010, Supreme Court of the State of New York.