Gallery owner admits theft

CRIME WATCH

May 18, 2007

A Howard County gallery owner admitted in federal court yesterday that he siphoned funds from investors who thought they were going to receive a healthy profit from sales he made in the art trade.

According to the plea agreement, Thomas H. Akins owned and operated the Galerie Elan, an Ellicott City art sales gallery where he attracted affluent investors with an "art investment program," marketed with a highly profitable rate of return, usually 24 percent a year. In reality, court documents say that Akins diverted those funds - potentially more than $1 million - for his own gain. As part of his plea agreement, Akins has agreed to pay restitution for the full amount of the victims' losses.

Akins, 52, of Rockville, pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud and faces a maximum prison term of 20 years when he is sentenced Sept. 6 before U.S. District Judge Andre M. Davis.

Matthew Dolan

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