A celebrity antiques expert known for sizing up treasures on “Antiques Roadshow” claims he was duped by a woman who scammed his auction house out of more than $100,000 — and is suing to recover the cash.
Leigh Keno, who along with his twin brother, Leslie, has long been a fixture on the PBS TV program, says the buyer seemed legit as she purchased $5,000 to $10,000 worth of items at a time, and always paid the bill.
“The checks didn’t bounce,” he said.
The buyer, whose name appears to be Chihyu Lu but goes by Grace Lu, then went shopping for a laundry list of Asian furniture and decorative items including a bronze “libation” cup with beast handle, watercolor painting of a cat and a dragon-carved display cabinet, Keno said.
She tallied up $178,450 worth of goods, which Keno said he let her take with a promise to pay later.
“I kick myself that I allowed it to happen,” said Keno, who runs Keno Auctions on the Upper East Side. “I’ve been in the business my entire life. This is the first time that this has happened.”
Lu took about 40 pieces in July 2020, paying $45,000 but then refusing to hand over the balance of $133,450, according to a lawsuit filed by the auction house against Lu in Manhattan state Supreme Court in 2021.
Lu claims she tried to resell some of the items and was told they appeared to be “later copies,” according to court papers.
Keno said the items were not represented as antiques from a particular period and that Lu had viewed them in his showroom over several weeks before buying.
Lu later bid at one of Keno’s auctions in January 2022 under a different name, buying up almost half of the sale, Keno said. He said when his staff realized it was the same person, they told her to pay her entire bill and then never heard back.
Keno said he was speaking out because Lu was allegedly taking other auction houses for a ride.
Since 2020, she has bid on more than $230,000 worth of treasures sold by various auction houses through the Live Auctioneers websites and never completed the transactions, according to documents reviewed by The Post.
Among those she allegedly stiffed was David Killen, who runs an eponymous auction house in Chelsea. He told The Post that Lu was the winning bidder on about $13,000 in Asian objects a month ago and refused to pay for the goods or pick them up.
Winning an item at auction is considered a legal agreement to buy it, he said.
Killen said they would lose value if placed up for auction again.
“People think, ‘Oh, there must be something wrong with it because the person who bought it never paid for it,’ ” he said. “It gets what we call in the business a bad smell to it.”
Killen said he finally got Lu to pick up and pay for her items this week when he told her another buyer was willing to spend thousands for the $900 “sword leg” table she won. He said she came rushing in to get it and pay her bill.
Lu did not immediately return requests for comment.
published 2022-04-10 05:26:04