The Washington Office of the FBI has arrested a Washington art dealer for allegedly keeping more than $50,000 in art work given to him to sell on consignment or to frame.
John Howard Dupree, 40, who had been sought as a fugitive, turned himself in to the FBI on Monday night at U.S. District Court here, and was released after a preliminary hearing before U.S. Magistrate Arthur L. Burnett.
An arrest warrant issued Aug. 26 charged the Vienna resident with interstate transportation of stolen property and fraud by wire.
Dupree owned the Washington Art Auction and the Gallery Frame shop at 1753 Connecticut Ave. NW.
He is accused of accepting art work for sale on consignment and never returning it, charging for framing that was never done, and refusing to turn over the proceeds of consignment sales. In some cases, Dupree paid with bad checks, according to the FBI.
Dupree allegedly had been engaging in these practices since 1979, according to an investigation by the FBI, Metropolitan Police Department and Montgomery County Police Department. His customers came from North Carolina, California and New York as well as the Washington area, the FBI said.
Charles Halleck, Dupree's lawyer, said, "The guy's a bad businessman. He's not a criminal. It's like an automobile dealer goes broke."
In an affidavit requesting a warrant for Dupree's arrest, FBI Special Agent Daniel A. Reilly said the District's Consumer Protection Office received about 100 complaints in a one-year period from Washington residents who said they could not get their art work back from Dupree.
In some cases, according to the affidavit, Dupree made partial payments to the alleged victims after they hired attorneys or complained to the District police.
The amounts that Dupree allegedly failed to turn over to customers ranged from a few hundred dollars to as much as $8,000.
One customer, Robert Ayers of the District, was quoted in the FBI affidavit as saying he made 40 telephone calls to Dupree in a fruitless effort to recover a photographic enlargement and $62 he paid for its framing.
In a search of Dupree's residence at 1720 Cy Court in Vienna last March 21, the FBI found more than 150 pieces of art work.
Those objects are being held by the Washington Office of the FBI for identification by possible owners.
If convicted, Dupree faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and an $11,000 fine.