Los Angeles, California - A noted art dealer was arrested Tuesday on federal charges accusing him of embezzling more than $260,000 from the bankruptcy estate of Ace Gallery, a Miracle Mile-based art gallery, while acting as the estate’s trustee and custodian.
Douglas J. Chrismas, 77, of the Mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles, surrendered without incident this morning to special agents of the FBI. A federal grand jury charged Chrismas via indictment with three counts of embezzlement against a bankruptcy estate. Chrismas was ordered released on $50,000 bond. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and a September 21 trial date has been scheduled in this matter.
According to the indictment returned on March 16 and unsealed today, Chrismas was the president and CEO of Art and Architecture Books of the 21st Century, which did business as Ace Gallery and was located on the Miracle Mile in the City of Los Angeles.
In February 2013, Ace Gallery filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in Los Angeles and continued to operate as a bankruptcy estate with Chrismas acting as the gallery’s president, trustee, custodian and overseer of its operations. In this role, Chrismas also had access to the gallery’s property. Chrismas remained in control over Ace Gallery until April 2016, when an independent bankruptcy trustee was appointed to run the bankruptcy estate and Chrismas was removed as trustee and custodian.
In late March and early April of 2016, Chrismas allegedly embezzled approximately $264,595 that belonged to the Ace Gallery bankruptcy estate, including a $50,000 check that Chrismas signed, was drawn against the estate and was paid to a separate corporation that Chrismas owned and controlled.
Chrismas allegedly also embezzled $100,000 owed to Ace Gallery by a third party for the purchase of artwork but the funds instead were paid – at his direction – to his separate corporation. Finally, Chrismas embezzled approximately $114,595 owed to the gallery by a third party that purchased artwork, but which he instead had paid to a creditor of his separate corporation, according to the indictment.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted of all charges, Chrismas would face a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison.
The FBI’s Art Crime Team and the Office of the United States Trustee investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Valerie L. Makarewicz of the Major Frauds Section is prosecuting this case.