Prominent art dealer sentenced to prison for tax fraud
NEW YORK (AP) — A prominent New York City art dealer once accused by Alec Baldwin of fraud was sentenced to 2½ years in prison Thursday for evading over $3 million in federal taxes, a crime that left her rejected in some art circles and saying she feels like a pariah.
Mary Boone, 66, dropped her face into open hands as U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein announced the sentence in a Manhattan courtroom packed with supporters, many of them artists.
Her lawyer had requested home incarceration at most, saying she may have to close Mary Boone Gallery’s two Manhattan addresses. Boone said outside court she didn’t know whether they would be closed.
In court, Boone apologized, saying she was “very remorseful.”
“I feel like a pariah,” she said. “My colleagues look at me different.”
She pleaded for “a second chance” but said she knew she “will have this scar on me forever and be branded a felon.”
In announcing the sentence, Hellerstein cited the tax fraud’s size and duration.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Olga I. Zverovich said a history of mental illness and substance abuse cited by Boone’s lawyer was no excuse for her failure to pay over $3 million in taxes.
Boone, she said, paid no taxes in 2009 and 2010 on millions of dollars in revenues and only $335 in taxes in 2011, when she should have paid over $1.2 million.
“It’s brazen. It’s deliberate. It’s expensive and clearly motivated by greed,” Zverovich said.
Prosecutors said Boone all but eliminated her taxes in 2011 by using business funds to pay about $1.2 million in personal expenses, including $793,000 to remodel her Manhattan apartment, $120,800 for rent and $300,000 in personal credit card charges.
Prosecutors said Boone fooled her accountant by mischaracterizing personal expenses.
For instance, they said, she called a $500,000 payment to a contractor for apartment remodeling a commission, and she withdrew over $560,000 in cash from gallery accounts from 2009 to 2011, listing them as business payments to a printing company or failing to report them at all.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement that her personal tax returns “were more a work of impressionism than realism.”
“Seemingly in order from afar, the picture Boone painted of her profits, losses, and expenses was, upon closer inspection, a palette of lies and misrepresentations mixed together to avoid paying over $3 million in taxes,” he added.
Hellerstein also ordered Boone to provide 180 hours of community service, instructing high school teachers in New York City in the arts and helping expand art education programs to underprivileged youths.
Restitution of $3.09 million to the IRS has already been paid.
Hellerstein ordered her to report to prison May 15, a date requested by Boone’s lawyer, Robert Fink, who said she “has to attend to the gallery closing.”
Minutes afterward, the lawyer hedged as he spoke to reporters.
“It’s not certain,” he said. “But the gallery’s run by her, nobody else. I don’t see how they can function without her.”
Baldwin, the actor, in 2017 settled a lawsuit against Boone in which he accused her of fraud involving a Ross Bleckner painting.