An art dealer was arrested on July 27 on federal charges accusing him of embezzling more than $260,000 from the bankruptcy estate of Ace Gallery, a former Miracle Mile-based art gallery, while acting as the estate’s trustee and custodian.
Douglas J. Chrismas, 77, of the Mid-Wilshire area, surrendered without incident to FBI special agents. A federal grand jury indicted Chrismas on three counts of embezzlement against a bankruptcy estate. Chrismas was released on $50,000 bail. He has pleaded not guilty and is expected to return for a court hearing on Sept. 21.
According to the indictment returned on March 16 and unsealed on July 27, Chrismas was the president and CEO of Art and Architecture Books of the 21st Century, which did business as Ace Gallery, formerly located at 5514 Wilshire Blvd.
In February 2013, Ace Gallery filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in Los Angeles and continued to operate as a bankruptcy estate with Chrismas acting as the gallery’s president, trustee, custodian and overseer of operations. In that role, Chrismas also had access to the gallery’s property. He remained in control of Ace Gallery until April 2016, when an independent bankruptcy trustee was appointed to run the bankruptcy estate and Chrismas was removed as trustee and custodian.
In late March and early April of 2016, Chrismas allegedly embezzled approximately $264,595 that belonged to the Ace Gallery bankruptcy estate, including a $50,000 check that Chrismas signed. That check was allegedly drawn against the estate and was paid to a separate corporation that Chrismas owned and controlled.
Chrismas also allegedly embezzled $100,000 owed to Ace Gallery by a third party for the purchase of artwork. Those funds instead were paid – allegedly at Chrismas’ direction – to his separate corporation. The defendant is additionally accused of embezzling approximately $114,595 owed to the gallery by a third party that purchased artwork, but which he instead had paid to a creditor of his separate corporation, according to the indictment.
If convicted on all charges, Chrismas faces 15 years in federal prison.