A former US National Football League player has been arrested by federal authorities on charges that he accrued more than $2m through Ponzi schemes, including a fraudulent opportunity to invest in a painting he said could be by Paul Gauguin and worth a potential $58m.
Russell Allen Erxleben was arrested at the end of January, accused of using The Sorcerer of Hiva Oa (date unknown) as part of a Ponzi scheme, a type of investment fraud in which so-called “returns” are paid to earlier investors using funds from later investors. He remains in custody after waiving a detention hearing last month and is pleading not guilty.
If the allegations are true, it would not be the first time that such a scheme has been attempted in the art world. In 2010, the New York Old Master dealer Lawrence Salander was sentenced to six to 18 years’ imprisonment, after pleading guilty to extracting $120m from clients—money he then used to pay other investors.