A 66-year-old man who faked the signatures of Winston Churchill and other famous writers was sentenced to ten months in jail at Southampton Crown Court on December 21.
Allan Formhals, from Milford-on-Sea,
Hampshire, had been convicted at the same crown court on October 25
of eight offences of fraud, but was cleared on three counts. Three
other offences were left to lie on file.
In January 2011 Met Police officers were
alerted to a number of Churchill books and memorabilia, supposedly
carrying his signature, being offered for sale. Working with the
Antiquarian Booksellers' Association (ABA), they identified the
signatures as forgeries.
On February 3, 2011, Formhals was arrested
at his home and a large quantity of books were recovered, bearing
forged signatures of a number of authors including Churchill, T.S.
Eliot, J.R.R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde, Aldous Huxley and Robert Louis
Stevenson. In addition, autograph books bearing thousands of
'practice' signatures were recovered, together with a calligraphy
pen and ink.
The investigation revealed that Formhals had
been purchasing large quantities of unsigned books for just a few
pounds before selling them on as 'signed', for several hundred
pounds each. He would offer a signed book for sale on eBay before
building up a relationship with the buyer and then continuing to
sell large quantities of books and memorabilia to the unsuspecting
ABA member Pom Harrington provided essential evidence in court,
and ABA president Laurence Worms said the tough sentence handed
down to the former Hampshire antiques dealer "represents a major
breakthrough in the fight against internet auction fraud". He added
that law enforcement agencies around the world "have previously
found it difficult to secure convictions in this field".