Valentine’s Day wasn’t very sweet for New York-based art dealer Mary Boone who was sentenced to 30 months in prison on the 14th of February at NYC’s Southern District Court. The sentencing comes after Boone plead guilty in September to falsifying tax returns stating she’d earned millions more than she did. Her sentence is six months less than the 36-month maximum penalty, which is what the US Attorney’s office tried for. She could potentially receive a year of her sentencing in supervised release but she will also serve 180 house of community service after her time in prison. The judge expects Boone to surrender herself to law enforcement on or prior to May 15th.
During Boone’s sentencing, which was presided over by Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein, it was established that her community service hours were to be spent working with the New York Department of Education facilitating children with visual arts through a programme set up by the department. She will likely be in prison until 2021 but could become eligible for supervised release at that point according to Hellerstein.
During the sentencing hearing on Thursday, Boone’s lawyer, Robert S. Fink, vied for leniency from the judge. This included citing pre-existing mental illnesses, alcoholism, and drug abuse as part of the reason behind Boone’s discretions. Fink described Boone as having ‘had so much thrown on her, so [many] disadvantages,’ and continued to say the six-year-long investigation into her tax returns had ‘ostracised’ her. Judge Hellerstein questioned in return, though, ‘[w]hat’s the illness that causes people to steal?’
Boone, now 67, herself, also read a statement prior to the hearing saying: ‘I feel like a pariah […] I promise to be the best person that I can and to do good and affect lives in a positive way.’ She went on to offer an apology to her family and colleagues. Her statement also referenced the investigation forcing her to resign from a number of organizations of which she was a part including the Art Dealers Association of America.
‘As Manhattan art gallery owner Mary Boone has admitted, her personal tax returns were more a work of impressionism than realism,’ said Geoffrey S. Berman, the US attorney. ‘Seemingly in order from afar, the picture Boone painted of her profits, losses, and expenses was, upon closer inspection, a palette of lies and misrepresentations mixed together to avoid paying over $3 million in taxes.’
Despite a number of high-profile artists supporting Boone, prosecutors cited that Boone was ‘motivated by greed.’ This isn’t the first run in with the law for Boone, either. In 1999, the dealer was charged with resisting arrest and the unlawful distribution of ammunition at her Midtown gallery during a show containing handmade shotguns and shells by artist Tom Sachs. Again, in2016, Boone was sued by actor Alec Baldwin concerning a Ross Bleckner painting she sold the actor. Baldwin claimed the painting was a fake and eventually, the pair settled out of court and Boone reportedly paid Baldwin $1 million.