Serial conman jailed for five years

A CONMAN who tried to swindle auction house Christie's out of paintings worth more than £1 million has been jailed for five years.Robert Hyams, 51, went on to commit a further 81 offences after being arrested and led police a “sorry dance”.

A CONMAN who tried to swindle auction house Christie's out of paintings worth more than £1 million has been jailed for five years.

Robert Hyams, 51, went on to commit a further 81 offences after being arrested and led police a “sorry dance”.

Sentencing him yesterday at London's Southwark Crown Court, Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC described him as “a persistent, serious and sophisticated fraudster”.

Hyams posed as a professor and art collector, forging a fax purportedly from a US bank claiming he had funds of $5 million.


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With his eldest daughter Catherine, also ensnared by his deception, he successfully bid for six expensive paintings at two auctions in February 2002.

The pair agreed to pay a total of £1,188,000 for three works by Marc Chagall, two by Georges Braque and one by Jean Duffy and tried to have them shipped to the United States.

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But the money was never produced and the paintings were never handed over to Hyams.

The auction house suffered a loss of £150,000, having had to buy the paintings from the sellers at the inflated price that had been bid for them, in order to protect their valued reputation.

After being arrested and bailed, Hyams was responsible for a series of other frauds. He fraudulently set up bank accounts, hired a Mercedes, rented a house and sent two of his daughters to a private school without ever having the money to pay.

He even tried a second fraud against an auction house, this time involving expensive furniture and a teddy bear together worth nearly £7,000.

The judge told him: “You seem to have almost a compulsion to try to trick people out of their money.

“That is not necessarily only and purely for the financial benefits involved or potentially involved but because of what you have yourself variously described as the 'kick' or the 'buzz' that you get out of such behaviour.

“Unhappily none of this is of comfort to the very many people whom you persist in defrauding.

“The fact is that on the strength of overwhelming evidence you are undoubtedly a persistent, serious and sophisticated fraudster.”

Hyams pleaded guilty to six counts of attempting to obtain property by deception and admitted four further frauds, also asking for 77 similar offences to be taken into account.

Commending the police investigation, Judge Rivlin said: “They have been led a sorry dance over the last few months but they have kept at it and they have actually managed to uncover a great many criminal offences that might otherwise never have come to light.”

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