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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ex-Sotheby's Chief Jailed, Fined

NEW YORK -- Former Sotheby's chairman A. Alfred Taubman was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and fined $7.5 million Monday by a federal judge who said the 78-year-old mogul's "arrogance and greed" were at the heart of a scam that shook the art world.

"This was not a crime motivated by desperation and need but arrogance and greed. ... He risked it all," U.S. District Judge George Daniels said in sentencing the philanthropist real estate magnate, whose worth has been valued at over $640 million.

Taubman, who is to report to prison on Aug. 1, declined to speak before he was sentenced. He showed no reaction as he left the courtroom and would not comment to reporters. A Taubman spokesman, asked if there would be an appeal, said, "We are reviewing our options after today's events."

The judge ordered Taubman to prison despite arguments by both the probation department and defense lawyers that Taubman should be spared jail time because of his age, poor health and charitable acts. Taubman is diabetic and has had several heart procedures.

At the sentencing hearing, Roger Fiske, one of Taubman's lawyers, cited a medical expert's report that Taubman could be expected to live only 3.8 more years. He said a prison term would amount to a life sentence.

However, John Greene, a federal prosecutor, said the Bureau of Prisons had reviewed Taubman's health records and determined it could meet his medical needs. Greene also argued that Taubman is well enough to hunt, fish and play golf.

A Manhattan federal jury convicted Taubman in December after deliberating for less than two days in the complicated case, in which Taubman and former Christie's chairman Anthony Tennant were charged with conspiring in a six-year scheme to fix commission prices charged to clients. The scam cost art sellers tens of millions of dollars.

Tennant, a resident of Britain, could not be extradited for the trial.

The case rocked the rarefied world of art auctions with accusations of deceit, back-stabbing and shady deal-making between the two houses, which together control about 90 percent of the world's live auctions of art, jewelry and furniture.

The judge first gave Taubman a one-year sentence, then agreed to a defense request to add a day to make him eligible for a 15 percent reduction in his term for good behavior. That could cut his prison term by just under two months.

Prosecutors had sought the maximum term of three years, citing the seriousness of the crime, Taubman's leadership role in the scheme and a need to send an international message against price fixing.

Daniels said that while Taubman's history of philanthropy was impressive, "One cannot give to the poor and steal from the rich. Price fixing is a crime whether it is committed in a local grocery store or halls of the great auction houses."

The judge also slammed Taubman for showing no remorse. "There is a lack of contrition demonstrated here," he said.

He said Taubman tried to blame others, portraying himself as a victim of a "vicious scheme" aimed at framing him.

During the trial, prosecutors said a slump in the auction houses' earnings led Taubman and Tennant to hold secret meetings aimed at devising ways to boost profits.

The government said the men decided to fix commission fees instead of undercutting each other's rates. As part of the scheme, they agreed to eliminate policies that allowed auction firms to waive the fees or negotiate them downward.

Sotheby's previously pleaded guilty to an antitrust charge and agreed to pay a $45 million fine. Christie's, which had been cooperating with the government, was not charged criminally for the scheme that operated between 1993 and 1999. During that period, the two houses charged sellers in the United States at least $400 million in commissions.