Hello - I am a serious collector of very expensive art and antiques. I was approached by a woman who said she represented a private *billionaire* who had thousands of fine antiques and art bought over 40 yrs. It's a reasonable enough story. I saw MANY, many good photos of said art & antiques w/descriptions. I could tell they were authentic. I was out of state, and the woman who owned the antiques was dying & had appointed her friend to sell things. Again, reasonable. I looked at things & talked by phone with the middle person for many months. I agreed to buy certain items w/ a written agreement saying I could return items or exchange, or get full $$ back if not happy within 14 days or receipt. But I had to pay up front or I would not get first choice when it was offered to other collectors and dealers and auction houses. I also was told **after** the woman died that I could be flown to her estate to see the items in-person in time. This woman I spoke with was very educated and was a best friend of the dying (now deceased) collector. Over a period of a year now, I paid $480,000 into an "escrow account" for certain items. The court of course had to do probate and all, and one person contested the Will, delaying things. I was being paid 6% interest on my deposit for the delays. All along the woman I worked with said the woman who died was so private that her name would not be given out unless I could figure it out myself (possible in high end collecting).
I got tired of the delays and "injunctions" put on the funds and everything else by the judge for the estate, and finally asked for proof of my funds. The woman said she could not get that for me because the Administrator for the estate was handling that. His name also was to have been kept secret since he was a relative and also had ties to military defense companies which is where the woman supposedly got much of her money (General Dynamics, and other similar companies). The woman who died supposedly was a friend of Alice Walton, etc. Anyhow, it was all a believable story in the high value art world. But when they could not give me a way to show my money was safe, I got upset. I was never shipped any merchandise bought either, due to the court injunctions until the estate closes and Will is read, and things can be "distributed" end of March. I fear I have been scammed, although the woman I've been working with for a year now is known where she lives, a background check on her is fine, and except for her lack of knowledge on antiques and art and probate, she has been pleasant and kept in contact very regularly with me and a person I trust who has helped me with all this to look at photos, ask for specifics, etc. If I WAS scammed, even though this woman is not going anywhere, and the police chief of her city said he has known her well for 15 yrs. - if March 29 comes and nothing else happens, what's the best way to approach things? The money and bank where it is at is still not disclosed. I got the local police to look into it, and the woman gave them her computer with all her correspondence with the principals in emails and such on it and many photos. She said she knew the deceased for 15 years. She is also due to inherit a very large sum for herself. I am at a loss as to whether to fly there (New York to Minnesota) and try to get answers or to hire a NY attorney at $500 or more/hour to file a suit demanding a refund or the merchandise. I need some good suggestions. 2-3 others who also bought from this estate but did not invest nearly as much as I have are also antsy and suspicious. No idea what is the thing to do now. The police chief even searched the woman's home and took all her banking and other information, but no charges have been filed. It's very odd. The photos were great and did not look like they were taken from auction catalogues. I don't want to wait another 2 months because I feel like that gives this woman and whoever she MIGHT be working with more time to hide assets - my money and other things if this IS a scam. Her husband is dying so she is not going anywhere, and she said just be patient. She is sure she will be vindicated and there will be money and all the things she said there were when the end of March is up and the estate is "opened" to sell, have visitors, finish sales transactions, make deliveries etc.
I'm lost as to what the best course is to do!! If you are not familiar with fraud or this kind of consumer potential white collar crime, please refer me to an attorney who has good experience with civil/criminal cases generally like this - scams or fraud / breech of contract
, etc. - Thank you, Dennis