Art dealer jailed for stealing from clients for 30 years

An art dealer stole at least £435,015 from his clients to fund a gambling habit, a court in Gloucester has heard.

Jonathan Poole of Poulton, Gloucestershire fleeced money out of nine victims over a period of 30 years by selling their artworks at a fraction of their value and pocketing the difference. He admitted to 26 offences of fraud and theft of artworks by Auguste Rodin, John Lennon, Rolling Stones’ guitarist Ronnie Wood, painter Sebastian Krüger and even jazz musician Miles Davis.

Poole operated two galleries in the Cotswolds selling artworks created by iconic musicians and rockstars. When one of his galleries flooded in 2007 Poole said he was forced to retain the proceeds of the sales. “I was just desperate”, Poole told police. The court heard he received the full insurance value of the damaged and destroyed pieces.

The prosecutor at Gloucester crown court compared Poole to the bored multimillionaire art thief, Thomas Crown, who stole a Claude Monet painting for the thrill of the heist in the film ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’. “Whilst Thomas Crown stole as a challenge… Jonathan Poole stole either to fund a gambling habit, to stash away money for later life or to fund a lifestyle he couldn’t afford”, James Ward told the court.

One of Poole’s victims, Dire Straits’ bassist, John Illsley, asked him to sell two paintings by Miles Davis for at least £28,000 but they changed hands for £4,000 and £6,000. Portraits of Jack Nicholson and Kate Moss by Sebastian Krüger were undersold by Poole to a Cheltenham pub where the Moss painting was damaged by a diner with a knife.

Poole will be jailed for four years. While some of the artworks have been returned to their original owners several are still missing. “Where is the money or the artwork he stole? Is it, like the Nazi gold train, hidden – only to be utilised in years to come?” Ward asked the court.

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