Jerry and Wynonne Hart are scheduled to be sentenced today for “misapplication of fiduciary property” in the operation of their auction business at the Hart Galleries. In return for the couple’s guilty plea, prosecutors dropped charges of theft and money laundering.
11 News reporter Dave Fehling spoke to several former Hart Galleries customers:
The auction house thrived for years. The Harts enjoyed a sterling reputation among the rich and not so rich who all trusted the Harts to sell their valuables. But around 2003, something strange began happening . . .
. . . the Harts auctioned furniture and antiques for John Zielinski and his wife.
They were expecting to get $20,000.
â€œAnd I said, â€˜whereâ€™s our money?â€™ And they said, â€˜weâ€™re having difficulty collecting some of the checks,â€™â€ said Zielinski.
The next thing Hartsâ€™ customers learned was that the couple was bankrupt.
Cynthia Jones who said she was a victim confronted Jerry Hart.
â€œHe was teary-eyed. We were teary-eyed. And I said, â€˜Jerry, you knew you were going to file for bankruptcy when you came out to my house.â€™ And he said, â€˜yes I did,â€™â€ said Jones.
[Nancy] Caho, Zielinski and Jones say that they felt betrayed, but assumed the Harts were just bad business people.
It wasnâ€™t until another victim, who expected a $100,000 for a painting, tipped the Harris County DA that something wasnâ€™t right.
An investigation led to felony charges . . .
The Hartâ€™s attorneys would not comment other than to say the Harts were sloppy bookkeepers and didnâ€™t even use a computer.
The former Hart Galleries showroom at 2301 S. Voss — between Westheimer and San Felipe — was torn down in 2006. The site is now the home of the Tanglewood at Voss Apartments. The Harts also ran the Hart Antique & Design Center at 3002 Fondren, between Richmond and Westheimer — a property which is currently listed for sale. And the Harts are listed as partners in the Antique Pavilion at 2311 Westheimer, between Shepherd and Kirby.
- Hundreds claim to be victims of Houston high-society couple [11 News, via Hair Balls]
- Hart Galleries owners face sentencing [Houston Chronicle]
- 3002 Fondren [LoopNet]
- Antique vendors take Hart with opening of new center [Houston Business Journal]
- Re-development: Everything old will be new again on prime sites [Houston Business Journal]
Photo of former Hart Galleries showroom at 2301 S. Voss: Hart Galleries