A noted Los Angeles art dealer was arrested Tuesday on federal charges accusing him of embezzling more than $260,000 from the bankruptcy estate of Ace Gallery, a Miracle Mile-based art gallery, while acting as the estate’s trustee and custodian.
Douglas J. Chrismas, 77, of the Mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles surrendered without incident Tuesday morning to special agents of the FBI. A federal grand jury charged Chrismas via indictment with three counts of embezzlement against a bankruptcy estate.
Chrismas, who was ordered released on $50,000 bond, has pleaded not guilty to the charges and a Sept. 21 trial date has been scheduled, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
If convicted of all charges, he would face up to 15 years in federal prison.
According to the indictment, Chrismas was the president and CEO of Art and Architecture Books of the 21st Century, which did business as Ace Gallery and was located on the Miracle Mile in Los Angeles.
In February 2013, Ace Gallery filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in Los Angeles and continued to operate as a bankruptcy estate with Chrismas acting as the gallery’s president, trustee, custodian and overseer of its operations.
In this role, Chrismas also had access to the gallery’s property. Chrismas remained in control over Ace Gallery until April 2016, when an independent bankruptcy trustee was appointed to run the bankruptcy estate and Chrismas was removed as trustee and custodian, according to the indictment.
In late March and early April of 2016, Chrismas allegedly embezzled about $264,595 that belonged to the Ace Gallery bankruptcy estate, including a $50,000 check that Chrismas signed, was drawn against the estate and was paid to a separate corporation that Chrismas owned and controlled, according to prosecutors.
Chrismas also allegedly embezzled $100,000 owed to Ace Gallery by a third party for the purchase of artwork but the funds instead were paid — at his direction — to his separate corporation.
Finally, Chrismas embezzled about $114,595 owed to the gallery by a third party that purchased artwork, but which he instead had paid to a creditor of his separate corporation, according to the indictment.