The legal wrangling continues in the bitter, high-stakes court battle between art advisor Lisa Schiff and her former longtime client and close friend, real estate heiress Candace Barasch.
In two lawsuits, Barasch claims Schiff owes her and co-plaintiffs with whom she owns various works at least $2.5 million plus interest and damages for a series of art purchases Schiff was meant to facilitate that were only partially completed or never completed.
In motions filed last month, Schiff had sought to dismiss the case and to stop any attempt to freeze or restrain her assets as she attempted to sort out a tangle of claims—a request Barasch and other plaintiffs argued strenuously against. Last week, Judge Lucy Billings partly granted Barasch’s motions, restricting what Schiff can sell or access in terms of both the proceeds of sales of art under scrutiny in the case and her personal assets.
Neither Barasch’s attorney nor Schiff’s attorney responded to a request for comment.
Barasch and two co-investors are seeking the return of $1.8 million, or $900,000 each, that they claim is the remainder owed on the $2.5 million sale of a work by sought-after Romanian painter Adrian Ghenie that was brokered by Schiff. Barasch’s co-investors and co-plaintiffs are Richard Grossman and his spouse, who was not named in the complaint, but is known to be veteran art dealer Adam Sheffer. Another, separate lawsuit involves Barasch, alongside her husband Michael, and trusts established on behalf of their children as plaintiffs.
Following the discovery of the missing Ghenie proceeds in early May, Barasch says she found information concerning at least a dozen other art transactions where money she paid is missing or unaccounted for, or where works have either been only partially paid for, or not paid for, or are being held in Schiff’s name and cannot be released to Barasch despite her requests. In the latest approval, the judge restricted Schiff’s access to proceeds from the Ghenie sale.
Barasch’s latest filings pile on the allegations in a legal matter with no shortage of mudslinging.
The most recent round includes the assertion that Schiff “deliberately misled and lied about the use of [plaintiffs’] funds,” and takes issue with Schiff’s claim that she voluntarily “self-reported” financial issues to government authorities.
“Defendants have not been charged with any state or federal crime, and even if they are, a stay of this action is not required or appropriate. Further, whether Schiff is charged or not, there is no guarantee that any criminal proceeding will involve restitution to Plaintiffs,” according to the memo filed by Barasch’s attorneys.
Barasch states that, by her own admission, Schiff has reached out to other creditors, employees, vendors, and clients but has not provided any information about the artworks and funds belonging to Barasch specifically.
In response to the assertion by Schiff and her attorney that the Baraschs saw a positive return of over $10 million due to Schiff’s support and facilitation of art transactions over the course of roughly two decades, they point out that Schiff would have made a commission of $1 million on those sales (ten percent), as well as that Barasch almost always used those proceeds to buy more art.
It continues: “Essentially, Defendants’ argument is that theft is acceptable if it is from wealthy people. That is not the law.”
In a separate memo, also part of the recent barrage of filings in the case, Barasch’s attorneys doubled down on Schiff’s apparently lavish spending even while allegedly engaged in the fraud at the heart of the cases.
The memo outlines a June 2019 vacation to Mykonos, Greece, to which Schiff allegedly traveled by helicopter, stayed at a private villa with a driver on call 24/7, and rented a private yacht for a day. Meanwhile, in New York, they allege she undertook a ten-year lease for a two-story Tribeca storefront, that was renovated to the tune of over $1 million, including to install custom finishes. “These were Ms. Schiff’s decisions,” the memo reads.
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