Hollywood art dealer accused of stealing paintings worth millions, officials say

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A Hollywood art dealer was arraigned after officials filed charges accusing him of stealing paintings worth more than $1 million from high profile clients.

Perry Rubenstein stood in front of a judge Friday afternoon appearing tense with his hands clasped in front of him as he faced three felony counts of grand theft by embezzlement.

Officials accused Rubenstein of failing to pay more than a million dollars to the owners of paintings sold through his former gallery on Highland Avenue in Hollywood.

One of the pieces of art included a provocative painting by Richard Prince that was owned by Creative Artists Agency co-founder and former Disney president Michael Ovitz.

Officials said Rubenstein claimed he sold two Prince paintings in 2013 for Ovitz totaling more than $1 million. But Ovitz said he never received the proceeds.

Ovitz settled with Rubenstein in March, which is why Rubenstein's lawyer, Steve Sitkoff, said the criminal charges were a complete shock.

"There are no criminal charges to be made here. This is a civil matter," Sitkoff said. "I think it's ironic that they've decided to charge him with criminal counts based on civil matters that have been resolved."

Officials also said Rubenstein sold "The World of Sphere" by Takashi Murakami for an art collector named Michael Salke in 2012, but never paid Salke the full amount.

Rubenstein entered a plea of not guilty at his arraignment and his bail was set at $1 million. If convicted of the charges, officials said Rubenstein could face a maximum of 15 years in prison.
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