An antiques dealer went on trial today accused of stealing heirlooms he was entrusted to sell – then scamming two customers out of more than £20,000 by inflating the value of paintings he sold them.
Kenneth Robb – who formerly ran Kingdom Antiques in Cupar, Fife – stands accused of stealing from his clients dating back as far as 2005.
Prosecutors allege that between January 1 2005 and July 31 2016 he stole paintings, jewellery, watches, musical instruments, antiques, clothing, sporting equipment, cameras and other items from 44 separate customers.
They say he told customers he would sell the property and pass the proceeds on to them – but instead “disposed of the items by means unknown”.
Robb also faces allegations that he defrauded Louise Seymour over the purchase of a painting in January or February 2006.
Giving evidence she told the court she had also given Robb pictures and jewellery to sell on her behalf – but never saw any money or got her property back.
Miss Seymour told how she was later convinced to buy a painting that Robb told her was worth £25,000 – and purchased it for the “discounted price” of £17,000.
Prosecutors say the true value of the painting was less than £1,000.
Robb is said to have repeated the trick on August 15 2011 at the shop in Bonnygate, Cupar, allegedly telling Josephine Donnelly that a painting in his shop was valued at £6,500, but that he would sell it to her at a discounted price of £4,500.
However, prosecutors say the true value was only £500 and that he obtained £4,500 from her by fraud.
Miss Donnelly is due to give evidence later in the trial.
Today Dundee Sheriff Court heard evidence from other clients of Robb.
Linda Simpson, of Luthrie, Fife, told the court she had taken Beswick pottery to be sold at the shop – and later saw the items on display in the window.
But she said she never heard from Robb again as to whether they had been sold, never got any money from him for the items and never got the property back.
She said: “He was agreeable to selling them and would take 20% as a fee.
“I was quoted some prices – he’d sell the Beswick Hereford piece for £400 and the Guernsey for £300.
“I trusted that he’d phone me if he sold them.
“I did try to phone him but didn’t get any reply.
“I got concerned when I saw the shop had closed and I wanted my stuff back but it wasn’t to be.
“After that I went to the police.”
Rosemary Findlay, of Cowdenbeath, told the court she had had a similar encounter with Robb when trying to sell old LPs and early editions of the NME at the shop – entrusting them to Robb but never receiving cash or her items back.
Earlier, Fife Council trading standards officer Kathryn Hart told the court she started investigating about 36 complaints from customers in 2011 or 2012.
She said initially it was the business, Kingdom Antiques, that she was investigating but the name “Ken Robb” came up more and more after the business closed down.
Under questioning by fiscal depute Lynne Mannion, Miss Hart said she had met Robb on one occasion at an “informal” meeting at Fife Police HQ.
Despite attempting to contact him on numerous occasions following that meeting and sending several registered and hand-delivered letters to his home asking him to come in for interview, he failed to respond.
On one occasion, Robb left a voicemail for her saying he could not attend for an interview. However, despite offering him another appointment, he failed to respond again.
Ms Hart said on January 9 and 10 2013 she had gone along with police officers to a warehouse at Front Lebanon in Cupar where customers’ items were being stored following the closure of the firm’s shop and seized a number of them.
Robb, 73, of Blalowan Gardens, Cupar, Fife, denies 44 charges of theft and two of fraud.
The trial, before Sheriff George Way, continues tomorrow.