From Chicago to Seattle, a skilled con artist has spent the past year preying on art galleries, police say.
Dwight Adrian Hudson, 46, is suspected of using smooth talk and bad checks to fleece galleries of thousands of dollars’ worth of artworks.
“He’s unusual because of his savvy,” Seattle police detective Maurine Stitch said.
The victims have included the Seattle Art Museum and five other Seattle galleries, as well as galleries in Portland, Chicago and Santa Fe, N.M., police said.
Hudson’s alleged scam included using as many as 13 aliases to open accounts at Seattle banks. The banks would close the accounts after catching him abusing them, but Hudson would continue to purchase artwork with bad checks, Stitch said. Then he would sell the artworks to pawnshops at below-market value, she said.
Police have recovered only a few pieces.
“He would target specific artists and go to an art gallery several times, discuss the art in detail, the artist’s work,” Stitch said. “That’s essentially the way he worked his way into the fabric of what he does.”
Hudson, who is still at large, is suspected of having forged 141 checks for $82,000, not all of it spent on artwork. Because of the high dollar amount and the number of states involved, the FBI began looking for Hudson last month, Stitch said.
In April, Hudson was charged with one count of fraud after he used a bad check to buy a $2,656 Edward Curtis photograph at a Santa Fe gallery, police said.
About the same time, Seattle police believe, he showed up in Chicago and stole a $14,500 Joan Miro lithograph.
At the Michael Pierce gallery in Seattle, a man who fit Hudson’s description used a bad check to buy a pricey Mark Tobey print called “High Tide.”
A man fitting Hudson’s description also made off with a $3,000 vintage Curtis photogravure from Flury & Co., a Seattle gallery, owner Lois Flury said. And he took a $7,500 gold-tone Curtis print from Quintana Galleries in Portland.
Wearing a natty white suit, he walked into the Seattle Art Museum in September and walked out with a $2,650 Jacob Lawrence print, according to a police report.
Only three of the stolen works have been recovered, Stitch said.
She said Hudson has a “long criminal history” but would not elaborate.
Court records show he has convictions in Illinois, North Dakota, Utah and Florida, where he was charged with second-degree theft and auto theft.
In Seattle, King County court records show he was convicted on a drug charge and for shoplifting in 1990.