Former Sports Doctor Sues Dealer for $2 Million Over Fake Russian Artifacts

Was the $2,600 spoon really used by a czar?

A real Fabergé egg. Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.

A Miami couple has filed a suit against a New York art and antiques dealer accusing him of selling them a fake Fabergé egg and other Russian collectibles for $400,000.

According to court documents seen by the New York Post, retired team doctor of the Miami Heat basketball franchise Steven Tarkin and his wife Shirley were allegedly duped into buying numerous fake antiques from dealer Ronald Safdieh. Documents show that Safdieh assured the couple that they were buying authentic Russian antiques.

In 2003 Safdieh reportedly weaved an elaborate, deceitful backstory, one that claimed he was an Orthodox Jew and that celebrities such as Michael Jackson had purchased works from him. After lying to gain the couple’s trust, Safdieh reportedly sold them nine pieces for $130,000 including a $2,600 spoon purportedly used by Russian czars and an enamel elephant piece for $30,000.

The Tarkins returned the following year and spent another $100,000 on what they thought was 20th century jewelry by Feodor Ruckert and 19th century furniture by Pavel Ovchinnikov and Fabergé.

According to the couple’s suit, the dealer issued them a certificate of authenticity and a buy-back guarantee. The Tarkans reportedly developed a friendship with the dealer and even welcomed him into their Miami home to close deals. Little did they know that Safdieh had already been sued twice over the alleged sale of fake Russian antiques.

When the dealer refused to buy back the fraudulent items the Tarkins decided to press charges. According to the New York Post, an appraisal revealed that a trove for which the retirees had paid six figures was estimated at a mere $15,000. They are suing Safdieh to the tune of $379,000 for the value of the fake antiques and an additional $2 million in compensation.

As it happens the embattled dealer is already fighting a $1.2 million lawsuit filed by an Ohio collector over the sale of a fake Fabergé egg and other pieces.

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