DEALERS and auctioneers have had a timely reminder of the dangers of accepting cheques as payment, with the jailing of a conwoman who amassed over £2m worth of art and antiques.
Shahra Marsh, 52, was sentenced to six years in prison at
Southwark Crown Court last week after admitting to 20 charges of
fraudulently obtaining and concealing goods between 2005 and
She previously admitted 18 similar counts at earlier court
DC Coghill of New Scotland Yard who led the investigation said:
"This woman amassed a vast quantity of stolen property through
complex and protracted criminal methods."
DCI Sean Wanless, head of the London Regional Asset Recovery
Team which deals with high value crimes, said: "This case
highlights the need for the retail sector to take great care in
knowing their customers."
A British national of Iranian origin, Shahra Marsh had been
educated in Paris and spoke fluent French. She duped auction houses
and dealers primarily in Paris and Geneva but also in London
through a highly convincing ploy where she pretended to be an
affluent member of Parisian high society.
Using the name Shahra Christina Sylvia Marsh de Savigny, she
would build a rapport with members of staff, even showing bank
statements as proof of her apparent wealth.
She would pay for items with personal cheques which would later
If the dealer or auctioneer asked to wait for a cheque to clear
before sending her the goods, she would threaten to call off the
Enquiries with French police revealed a long list of victims in
the French capital.
They included Tajan, from whom she acquired five paintings, a
mirror, a brooch, a statuette and a marble-topped chest of drawers
valued at £115,000; Beaussant Lefèvre (an antique clock, a chest of
antique drawers, an antique table and four paintings valued at
£68,000); Gros & Delettrez (two Louis Vuitton trunks, a Louis
Vuitton bag, three Hermès bags, a Hermès 'Birkin' Alligator bag and
a Hermès clock valued at £51,000); Massol (two antique tables, a
pair of antique chairs, an antique box, an antique set of drawers
and a marble-topped table valued at £24,000); Piasa (three pieces
of jewellery valued at £13,000); and Giafferi (a diamond necklace,
a round bowl and four pieces of jewellery valued at £69,000).
Shahra Marsh was arrested in October 2006 for stealing from
Christie's in London after personal cheques were returned
When police carried out searches, they found a large quantity of
antique furniture and designer clothing at her address in Canary
Wharf; around 150 pieces of jewellery valued at £770,000 in a
safety deposit box in Chancery Lane; and an estimated £1m worth of
stolen art, antiques and jewellery in a Docklands storage
• In a separate investigation by the London Regional Asset
Recovery Team, a 36-year-old Iraqi pawnbroker who traded from
premises in New Bond Street was arrested last week on suspicion of
money-laundering and handling stolen goods.
Having accepting expensive watches, jewellery and even a Ferrari
from clients, he is suspected of having obtained money from false
companies, loans, credit cards and fraud as well as hiding £1.4m in
DCI Sean Wanless said: "Individuals like this give all the
appearance of affluence and legitimacy but he is underpinning
criminality through London."