A dealer in New York has been handed a "death penalty"—no sales unless the objects are confirmed authentic by an independent lab, and all sales, including the names of the buyers, are reported to authorities.
The attorney general of New York filed a lawsuit against Dr. Mircea Veleanu, owner of Objets D'Art Uniques, seeking to permanently bar him from selling jade antiques unless they are verified as authentic. The suit also asked that all sales be reported and sought restitution for customers Veleanu allegedly defrauded, as well as penalties and costs to the state.
The attorney general's office obtained a temporary restraining order that required Veleanu to do business with those restrictions, and on November 14, the Honorable Thomas J. Dolan agreed and permanently imposed the restrictions.
In January 2007, Veleanu, a retired ob-gyn turned dealer, sold two jade malas (strings of prayer beads) to collector Janet Spiridinakos, who had found him through GoAntiques.com. One of the malas, priced at $1500, was emerald green, and Spiridinakos claims Veleanu described it as "fei tsui" jade. "This description is highly significant because fei tsui jadeite is also what is known as imperial jade, which is the highest quality jadeite in the world," her affidavit reads.
Veleanu, in court briefings, refutes the fei tsui description, claiming, "Fei tsui jade is not the same as 'imperial jade'…The Mandarin Chinese name of jadeite emanates from two characters Fei and Tsui and in Chinese, Fei Tsui."
Over a two-year period, Spiridinakos spent over $12,365 buying antique malas from Veleanu.
It was two calligraphy brushes, however, that first sounded the alarm. In November 2008 Spiridinakos bought two brushes for $2400 from Veleanu, who described them as having a superb quality.
In an affidavit, Spiridinakos writes, "After receiving the brushes, I examined them through my 10X and 20X loops [sic] (jewelers' magnifying glasses) using a flashlight behind them so I could see clearly into the alleged jadeite beads on the brushes. What I saw shocked me. They were filled with small bubbles inside and totally translucent. Jade never looks like that—only glass dyed green to give the appearance of jade!"
She returned the brushes for a refund, but Veleanu insisted she was mistaken—they were, he claimed, the highest quality jade. Spiridinakos was swayed and offered to buy them back. Veleanu agreed, but only if she paid double the original $2400 price. She declined. He claims he raised the price in order to dissuade her from doing business with him anymore.
Spiridinakos consulted a jeweler, who advised her to have all of her jade malas tested by the now-defunct American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) laboratory. The AGTA, according to court papers, reported that every mala sold to her by Veleanu was fake—made of dyed quartz instead of jade.
According to the lawsuit, Veleanu rejected the lab results, disparaged AGTA, claiming he had never heard of it, and, to this day, has not taken back the malas, despite saying he would do so if they were indeed fake.
Representing himself, Veleanu filed a 14-page single-spaced "Motion to Dismiss All the Charges" on September 9. While occasionally rambling, Veleanu was resolute. "I strongly deny the allegations, and I will present facts showing that my business of selling antiques and antiquities is ethical, dealing in high quality art objects acquired in good faith from reputable sources," he writes.
(The court didn't look kindly on Veleanu's writing. "These responses are generally lacking in any evidentiary value as they are not properly sworn to, are speculative and conclusory, and consist mainly of denials and self-serving statements unsupported by any evidentiary material in proper admissible form.")
In his defense, Veleanu claimed he tested the material. "The jadeite mala were tested by me for hardness with a sharp stainless steel knife and this test proved that the jade material was harder than 5.5 on Moh's hardness scale and not made from a soft stone like a simulant stone would be."
Veleanu tried to distinguish differences between jade in jewelry and jade art objects, which he claims are not routinely tested. "As a matter of fact, I never encountered any sales of jade in which the seller attached a gemological report linked to the sale. This statement applies to all sales of jade art objects sold by most reputable auction companies such as Sotheby's and Christie's, as well as any other well-known auction companies such as I.M. Chait, Skinner, Inc., and high-end companies selling jade. Jade in the form of jadeite or nephrite sold by all auction companies and large reputable high-end dealers is sold on the basis of recognition by experts from these companies that sell jade, that the art objects are made from jade. This is based solely on visual examination and not laboratory testing."
He states, "The ethical standard for the sale of jade carvings as art objects and not jewelry is based on the carvings' appearance by means of simple visual examination aided by high magnification through a loupe and by performing a hardness test."
Veleanu provided the court with lengthy passages criticizing the testing procedures applied to the mala ("not only inaccurate but misleading") as well as the "Petrologic, Mineralogic, and Gemological Data in Support of My Defense Against the Allegations."
The court ruled that Veleanu is "permanently enjoined from advertising for sale through any medium and from selling any item any part of which is allegedly made of jade, whether it belongs to him or anyone else, unless and until he has had the jade item tested by the American Gemological Trade Association Testing Center, or a lab of equal representation, and the lab certifies that the material in the item is jade."
He is also "permanently enjoined from transferring any item, any part of which is allegedly made of jade, in his collection of art and artifacts to anyone without first advising the Attorney General of the person or entity to whom it is being transferred and for what purpose."
The court ordered Veleanu to keep his business records intact and to provide a full accounting of his business dating back to August 1, 2003, including "the person's name, contact information, a description of what was sold, the price paid, and the date sold." Penalties and fees are yet to be determined.
The court advised Veleanu to get an attorney. "Given the seriousness of the matter and the potential implications as to the assessment of restitution, costs and a money judgment…it is strongly suggested…that he seek legal assistance and representation in this proceeding…."
G. Nicholas Garin, an assistant attorney general handling the case, was blunt in a court filing. "What he represents as high quality ancient jade artifacts are nothing more than everyday quartz objects infused with green dye to fool the casual collector."
Veleanu's name may be familiar to some. He has authored four books, Jade: 5000 B.C. to 1912 A.D., A Guide for Collectors; Antique Swords & Daggers; Netsuke; and Tibetan Artifacts.
The attorney general's office is looking for other customers of Veleanu, who are asked to call (845) 485-3900 if they purchased art or artifacts they suspect are fake.
Originally published in the December 2009 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2009 Maine Antique Digest
Below is part of DECISION/ORDER/JUDGEMENT from Supreme Court of The State of New York given to me by Mr.G.Nicolas Garin of N.Y. State Attorney General for public viewing...if you need all Attorneys, Court and reply to the court of Dr.Mircea Veleanu in full document, pls feel free to contact me.
Nov 14, 2009
ORDERED and ADJUDGED that respondent DR.MIRCEA VELEANU, or any person or entity acting in his behalf, is permanently enjoined from violating General Business law and executive Law and from engaging in the fraudulent, deceptive and illegal practices alleged herein including the material misrepresentation of any items he offers for sale; and it is further.
ORDERED and ADJUDGED, that respondent is permanently enjoined from advertising for sale through any medium and from selling any item any part of which is allegedly made of jade, whether it belongs to him or anyone else, unless and until he has had the jade item tested by the American Gemological Trade Association Testing Center, or a lab of equal representation, and the lab certifies that the material in the item is jade; and it is further
ORDERED and ADJUDGED, that respondent is permanently enjoined from transferring any item, any part of which is allegedly made of jade, in his collection of art and artifacts to anyone without first advising the Attorney General of the person or entity to whom it is being transferred and for what purpose; and it is further
ORDERED and ADJUDGED, that said respondent is permanently enjoined from directly or indirectly destroying or disposing of any records pertaining to his business selling art and artifacts; and it is further
ORDERED , that respondent is directed to provide to the Attorney General, within thirty (30) days of the date of this decision, order and judgment, a full accounting from August 1, 2003 to the present, of persons or entities to whom he has sold items any part of which he represented as made of jade, said accounting to include the person’s name, contact information, a description of what was sold, the price paid, and the date sold; and it is further
ORDERED , that any Order and Judgment relative to potential restitution (including the claim of Ms. Spiridinakos), and the assessment of penalties, costs or money judgment against respondent is held in abeyance pending the completion by petitioner of its investigation of potential claims and the submission of the accounting ordered herein to be provided by respondent.
Counsel for petitioner and respondent shall appear before this Court on December 14, 2009 at 9.30 a.m. for a conference to monitor the status of ongoing investigation.
This Court notes that to date respondent (DR.MIRCEA VELEANU) has appeared pro se in this proceeding. Given the seriousness of the mater and the potential implications as to the assessment of restitution, cost and a money judgment, along with the injunctive relief already granted, it is strongly suggested to respondent that he seek legal assistance and representation in this proceeding so that he may be made fully aware of what is involved and what his rights and responsibilities are under this Order and judgment….
(He represented himself, no lawyer was hired and working on his behalf.)
If you are victims (local or overseas) of Dr.Mircea Veleanu please contact: Mr.Nicholas Garin for further investigation.
Atty. Nick Garin
New York State Office of Attorney General
235 Main Street, 3rd Floor, Poughkeepsie, New York
Telephone: Nick Garin
Website : http://www.oag.state.ny.us/