Go to the website of the classy Hart Galleries and there's a sad message: "The End of an Era," a bankruptcy liquidation sale.
It is with the deepest regret and sadness that we inform you of the filing for bankruptcy and closing of Hart Galleries and most trusted name in quality antiques, fine furnishings and the decorative arts, not only in Houston, but throughout the Southwest. A reputation earned over the last 68 years, since 1938, by three generations of the Hart Family. Our 50,000 square foot showroom will offer you an incredible selection of antique and new furnishings, fine art, designer and estate jewelry, exotic designer furs, and and exceptional collection of hand-woven Oriental Rugs.
Go to the website of KHOU, and it's a different kind of sad story: "Hundreds claim to be victim of Houston high-society couple," the headline reads over a story about how the owner of Hart Galleries had bilked customers for years.
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"Most trusted name"....in stealing!!
Reports KHOU's Dave Fehling:
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 said [Nancy] Caho.
"Well, I didn't hear from them for many weeks," she said.
Caho said that the Harts auctioned an antique table for her for $3,000, but weeks later she still hadn't received the money.
She said that the Harts told her the table didn't sell.
Fehling: "That it didn't sell?"
Caho: "That it didn't sell. And I said, 'It did sell because I was there and saw it sell.'"
Likewise, the Harts auctioned furniture and antiques for John Zielinski and his wife.
They were expecting to get $20,000.
"And I said, 'where's our money?' And they said, 'we're having difficulty collecting some of the checks,'" said Zielinski.
Fehling says the owners have reached a plea agreement with the DAs office.