Sept. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Tom Doyle and James Carl Haggerty weren’t hobnobbing in Manhattan, Miami or London in early 2007 as the art market was peaking.
They were confined in March and April to Ulster Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison 94 miles north of Sotheby’s York Avenue salesroom in New York. Doyle, now 53, had pleaded guilty to grand larceny related to the sale of a bronze Degas sculpture. Haggerty, 55, was convicted of vehicular assault, after a drunk-driving incident that caused serious injuries to two victims.
Now they’re linked to a missing $1.4 million Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot painting, a story that started as an improbable man-walks-into-a-bar joke in New York tabloids and evolved into something more serious after a mug shot of Doyle, the art-crime felon, was matched to Tom Doyle, a co-owner of the Corot.
A James Carl Haggerty was hired to help sell the painting, and told Doyle, the co-owner, that he’d misplaced the painting after a night of drinking at Manhattan’s Mark Hotel, according to a lawsuit filed on Aug. 30 by Kristyn Trudgeon, who claims to be another of the painting’s owners.
“It was a beautiful piece,” said Trudgeon in an interview. “It’s lost by this drunk.”
Max DiFabio, who represented Trudgeon, said earlier this week that he was withdrawing the suit after he showed her a mug shot of Doyle. He is no longer working for her, he said yesterday.
Trudgeon, 39, called co-owner Doyle a “friend” and declined in an interview to say whether they’re romantically linked. She acknowledged that he has access to her apartment.
“He is a very commendable man,” she said. “Tom just got his driver’s license renewed. He’s not hiding.”
Trudgeon claimed in her suit that Haggerty, promised a fee to sell the 1857-58 “Portrait of a Girl,” had taken the Corot to the Mark on Doyle’s instructions. Haggerty was to show the artwork to a London dealer who’d expressed interest in buying it, according to the complaint.
After hours of drinking, Haggerty left the Mark with the painting, according to the complaint. An hour and 40 minutes later, he arrived empty-handed at the West Side apartment where he was staying and later told Doyle he couldn’t recall where the painting was, the complaint states.
Trudgeon said she filed the lawsuit to obtain Haggerty’s phone records.
“Unless you turn your phone off you can figure out your location because you bounce off the satellite,” she said. “There are so many satellites in Manhattan we could figure out where he was during that hour and a half.”
Call to Haggerty
A man who answered a call placed to a mobile phone Haggerty used in connection with the painting sale said it was a wrong number and hung up after being told the caller was a reporter.
Doyle didn’t return phone messages seeking comment.
The artwork was earlier in the collection of Los Angeles’s Hammer Museum. In 2007, Armand Hammer Foundation, funded by the industrialist who died in 1990, sold it for $900,000, according to the foundation’s tax return. Trudgeon said she and Doyle bought it from New York’s Hammer Galleries in June with the aid of investors. She declined to disclose the price.
The gallery’s chairman, Michael Hammer, is president and chief executive of the Hammer Foundation, according to a 2008 tax return. Hammer didn’t return messages seeking comment left at the gallery.
Doyle and Haggerty started their sentences in the Ulster County prison within days of each other, said Linda Foglia, a spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Correctional Services. Haggerty was released in September 2008, and Doyle was released in December 2009, Foglia said.
Howard Gollomp, chief executive of Imperial Jets, a New York charter company, said Doyle and Haggerty worked as consultants for him this year to generate business. He said the only thing they generated was unwelcome publicity after the story broke.
“They have been banished from the kingdom,” he said.
The James Carl Haggerty who served time in prison is about five-foot ten, with blond hair and blue eyes. Simon Mills, who was the landlord of Haggerty the sales agent the night of the painting’s disappearance, said the person in James Carl Haggerty’s mug shot is the same man as his former tenant.
Mills’s apartment in Trump Place is the address Trudgeon claims is Haggerty the sales agent’s residence and the one she used for the summons for her lawsuit against him. Haggerty lost the painting between the Mark Hotel and his return to that apartment, the complaint states.
A person who dealt with Haggerty the sale agent also matched the vehicular-assault mug shot to him, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential.
2006 Art Crime
Doyle was charged in New York in 2006 with grand larceny and possession of stolen property in connection with the Degas. He posed as a member of an art-collecting family to befriend Norman 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 has said.
“This is a bad guy,” said Gary Lerner, a New York lawyer who represented Alexander. “He’s a con man and a thief.”
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.
“Let’s say he’s guilty as hell, which I don’t think he is, so what?” Trudgeon said. “The lawsuit is against Haggerty, not against Tom. I’d hope everyone would just back off and focus on the painting.”
District Attorney Investigation
It turns out the district attorney is already doing that as part of a new criminal investigation, according to a person with knowledge of the confidential probe who asked not to be named.
Walter Lynch, director of security at the Mark Hotel, said Sept. 2 that he was talking to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Duggan, the district attorney spokeswoman, declined to comment on the matter.
The case is Trudgeon v. Haggerty, 111583/2010, Supreme Court of the State of New York.
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