NEW YORK—On July 19, Leigh Morse, the former director of Manhattan’s now-defunct Salander-O’Reilly Galleries was sentenced to serve four months of weekend jail time and ordered to pay $1.65 million in restitution for her role in the gallery’s fraudulent activity, estimated by authorities at upwards of $120 million.
Morse worked at the gallery until 2007 when it was shuttered and filed for bankruptcy protection (ANL, 11/13/07). She was convicted on one count of scheming to defraud through aiding in the sale of artworks from the estate of artist Stuart Davis without informing or compensating the artist’s son, Earl Davis (ANL, 4/19/11).
She was found not guilty of a grand larceny charge that alleged her involvement in defrauding Robert De Niro, Jr. of $65,000 for the sale of two paintings by the actor’s late father.
State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus called her actions a “betrayal of trust,” noting that four estates represented by the gallery had been defrauded of $9 million. However, he noted, Morse “had no intention of getting herself involved in criminal conduct like this.”
Lawrence Salander, former owner of the gallery, is currently serving a six-to-eighteen year sentence in state prison, having pled guilty in March 2010 to 29 counts of grand larceny and one count of scheming to defraud. Salander-O’Reilly Galleries collapsed in late 2007 amid a flood of lawsuits, bankruptcy proceedings and a shutdown by the Manhattan district attorney. Salander admitted to defrauding consignors, investors and high-profile clients, including former tennis pro John McEnroe and De Niro, out of an estimated $120 million.
Before her sentencing, Morse addressed the court, stating: “I’m very sorry for causing people pain and suffering.”
Morse is to serve her jail time over the course of 16 consecutive weekends—from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon—starting August 6, in addition to the $1.65 million fine, which is to be paid over an unspecified period of time. She now works as a private dealer from her Upper East Side Manhattan apartment.