Issue #262  9/19/2023
Photo Dealer Wendy Halsted Beard Charged with One Count of Wire Fraud
Wendy Halsted Beard
Wendy Halsted Beard

A Michigan-based gallerist pled guilty to defrauding more than 10 collectors, the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Michigan has announced. "With (the) plea, Ms. Beard has taken a first step towards accepting responsibility for her criminal behavior,” Devin Kowalski, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, said in a statement.

The photo dealer, Wendy Halsted Beard, was charged with one count of wire fraud related to a multi-year scheme in which she reportedly concocted elaborate lies to con clients out of money and photographic prints. She faces up to 20 years in federal prison. Her sentencing is set for December 12th of this year before United States District Judge Judith E. Levy.

Beard's father, Tom Halsted, was a well-known and highly respected photography gallerist, who helped found the Association of International Photography Art Dealers and who passed away on December 8, 2018.

Beard "swindled numerous families out of valuable artwork and lied to them repeatedly in order to keep her fraud scheme afloat,” according to U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison.

"There is no place for this kind of criminal deceit in our community, and today’s conviction holds this defendant accountable for her conduct," Ison concluded.

Beard, 58, was arrested last October. Charges filed at the time alleged that the dealer, who ran the Wendy Halsted Gallery in the Detroit suburb of Birmingham, cheated collectors by accepting payment for artworks that she never delivered, and getting photographs on consignment and then selling them without notifying or paying their owners.

The gallerist reportedly also tried to avoid clients she defrauded by inventing fake employees and exaggerating her own health conditions, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Beard’s lawyer, Steve Fishman, maintained that his client "acknowledged her wrongdoing by entering a guilty plea without requiring the government to obtain an indictment. She accepted responsibility for her conduct which is the first step toward rehabilitation."

As part of a plea deal, Beard acknowledged that she defrauded 10 clients and agreed to forfeit any property obtained through the scheme. Fishman noted that, while the U.S. Attorney’s Office estimated that her crimes added up to $1.5 million, he contends that the amount was closer to $500,000. He said the actual amount would likely be decided in December during sentencing.

Most of those photography dealers who knew Wendy through her father expressed surprise and sadness about the situation. Reportedly, Beard was struggling with disorganization and with the upkeep on an expensive lifestyle that she simply couldn't afford.