CRIME

California man accused of defrauding Utah woman with fake van Gogh, Dali, Monet paintings

Feb 22, 2024, 3:20 PM | Updated: 3:24 pm

Vincent Van Gogh's painting "Self Portrait with a Straw Hat" is displayed at the exhibit "Vincent V...

Vincent Van Gogh's painting "Self Portrait with a Straw Hat" is displayed at the exhibit "Vincent Van Gogh: The Drawings" on October 11, 2005 in New York City. A California jeweler is accused of defrauding a Utah woman by giving her paintings he said were made by Vincent van Gogh, Salvador Dali, and Claude Monet but turned out to be fake. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

PROVO — A California jeweler is accused of defrauding a Utah woman out of hundreds of thousands of dollars of jewelry, watches and other items by giving her paintings he said were made by Vincent van Gogh, Salvador Dali and Claude Monet but turned out to be fake.

William David Leavitt, of Carlsbad, California, was charged last week in Utah’s 4th District Court with communications fraud and five counts of criminal simulation, both second-degree felonies.

In January 2022, a woman contacted a Utah County jeweler about selling some of her jewelry and arranged to have her items placed in his shop on consignment, according to charging documents. Leavitt became aware of the jewelry and wanted to meet with the woman.

“On March 1, 2022, Levitt and his assistant arrived at the complainant’s home with a truckload of paintings, including a painting he claimed to be an authentic van Gogh. Leavitt left the paintings with the complainant for her consideration for a possible purchase,” charging documents state.

Ten days later, the woman traded some of her jewelry for a diamond bracelet Leavitt claimed was worth $170,000, according to the charges. She paid Leavitt a balance of $68,000 and later bought a van Gogh and Dali from him, the charges state.

“The complainant purchased several other paintings and paid Leavitt $200,000 by check and also traded some of her watches and jewelry. She and Leavitt also traded more jewelry for the Salvador Dali painting,” according to charging documents.

In January 2023, Leavitt agreed to purchase furniture from the woman and claimed “he would pay her $30,000 within a couple of days and the remainder in 60 days,” the charges state.

But Leavitt did not pay her for the furniture and gave her a supposed Monet painting instead, the charges state. The woman said she was not interested in the Monet.

“At that same time, the complainant asked Leavitt for the appraisals he promised her for the paintings she purchased. Over the next few months Leavitt made excuses for nonpayment and furnished no appraisals. On July 11, 2023, Leavitt met with (the) complainant and stated he was going through a tough time and continued to evade her questions and requests,” the charges state.

Eventually, the woman hired her own experts “to assess the authenticity of the van Gogh, Salvador Dali, and Monet. The three paintings were found to be fake. The diamond bracelet was also evaluated and found to have lab-grown diamonds, not genuine diamonds, and worth $18,000 (and) not the traded value of $68,000,” according to the charges.

“On or about July 31, 2023, Leavitt and the complainant opened an escrow for $800,000 funded with a red diamond, plus money and securities, while discussions were ongoing. On Aug. 25, the complainant found out the red diamond was not genuine, and worth only $100,” the charges continue.

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California man accused of defrauding Utah woman with fake van Gogh, Dali, Monet paintings