Tuesday - 21 October 2014

Six years in prison for the £2m cheque bouncer

06 October 2008Written by ATG Reporter

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 2007.

She previously admitted 18 similar counts at earlier court appearances.

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 bounce.

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 sale.

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 unpaid.

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 facility.

• 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 cash.

DCI Sean Wanless said: "Individuals like this give all the appearance of affluence and legitimacy but he is underpinning criminality through London."

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ATG Reporter

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