An elderly Orange County man claims Metropolitan Fine Arts and Antiques in New York City used "high-pressure sales techniques" to trick him and his now deceased wife into purchasing $3 million in "nearly worthless" art and jewelry, according to a federal fraud lawsuit.
Robert Plumleigh's complaint states that Sam Morano, owner of the store, "deceptively" assured him that the pieces "had been made in Europe," were "of museum quality" and "had been appraised for values far in excess of the purchase prices."
The lawsuit, filed in Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, alleges that the Plumleighs of Santa Ana were an "un-savvy couple" who "were such ripe targets" for Morano's "high-pressure sales tactics and unduly influenced by defendants' claims and representations."
Plumleigh, 84, reports that Morano sent a truck "full of pieces" to his home to make "lavish representations" about the quality, age and value of the items.
But he later learned from an independent appraisal that the jewelry had been made recently in China and, at best, are worth just 10 percent of the $3 million he paid, according to the lawsuit.
Worse for the plaintiff, he says he still owes $650,000 to American Express for the purchases.
"After the sales and in an effort to conceal their fraudulent scheme and to claim immunity from it, defendants belatedly sent invoices to the Plumleighs unilaterally attempting to disclaim all representations and warranties made in connection with the sales and attempted to shorten the statute of limitations periods in an effort to discourage claims against the defendants," the lawsuit states.
Morano, whose business is located on West 57th Street in Manhattan, has not filed an answer in the federal court, where the case will be managed by U.S. District Court Judge Josephine Staton Tucker.
Tucker has notified both parties of an Alternate Dispute Resolute program that aims to settle cases before costly trials and protracted litigation.
A 2013 New York Post article–"Antique shop 'tricked tourist into $1 million sale'"–reported on another elderly person's legal claim that Morano allegedly misrepresented Japanese figurines as 17th century products though they were made recently in China and worth $100,000.
On its website, Metro Fine Arts advertises that it sells "the finest in European and Oriental jade, ivory and coral carvings . . . priced for the collector."