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Ex-Prosecutor Charged in Art Fraud Case

A former federal prosecutor has been charged in a case that underscores the potential for fraud in the complex world of fine art insurance. James P. Tierney, who worked as a federal prosecutor in New York and Los Angeles before entering private practice, aided one of his clients in a conspiracy to fake the theft of works by Picasso and Monet and defraud two insurance companies, according to a document federal prosecutors filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Tierney, who became a prominent entertainment lawyer representing such performers as the late Brian Wilson, faces one count of aiding and abetting wire fraud. His attorney, Michael Doyen, said Tierney will cooperate in the federal investigation of Steven G. Cooperman, a retired ophthalmologist. Cooperman was indicted in November on 16 counts in connection with the loss of the two paintings, which he had insured for $12.5 million. After they were reported stolen from his Brentwood home in 1992, he sued his insurers and later won a $17.5-million settlement. Federal prosecutors contend that Cooperman enlisted Tierney in 1992 to secretly remove the paintings by providing him with a house key and burglar alarm code. Once removed, the works were transferred to another person. That individual wasn’t identified, but the FBI recovered the paintings in 1997 in an Ohio storage locker maintained by James J. Little, a lawyer who worked with Tierney. Little was offered immunity for his testimony, but it is unclear whether that deal is still valid. Cooperman, who now lives in Connecticut, was arraigned last week and pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Melissa Widdifield, said Cooperman “denies the allegations.”


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