sued over theft of antique table in Baltimore, US
Antiques Rogue Show
Phone: ++353 (0)1-884-9000
Fax: ++353 (0)1-884-9001
E-mail: [email protected]loninvestigates.com
To contact Eamon Dillon:
ONE of Ireland’s wealthiest traveller traders is facing a massive lawsuit by an American antiques dealer over the theft of an 18th century card table.
While the Sunday World last week revealed a scam by Rathkeale traveller traders in Australia, a jury found against a traveller couple based in the United States.
It is the latest incident, straight from a Lovejoy episode, which highlights how the caravan-dwelling Rathkeale traders operate all over the globe in the search for profits. Michael ‘Levan’ Slattery is accused of orchestrating the theft of the table which he had tried to swap for other antiques.
The real owner, Elmer Mack from Baltimore won compensation from relatives of Levan’s and now plans to go after punitive damages.
The travellers claim a deal had been done, but a jury rejected their story and awarded $58,000 compensation to Mack.
The dogged American businessman is now determine to re-coup the $100,000 he has paid out in legal fees as well as recovering his prized table.
Levan Slattery first went into the up-market antiques store in Baltimore, Maryland in June 2004.
An expert in antique furniture a Georgian card table, made in the 18th century, caught his eye.
His instincts weren’t wrong and he immediately made an offer of $10,000 for the piece of furniture. The owner, Elmer Mack refused the offer, knowing well that the table was worth a lot more.
It was his prize catch, the type of find every antique dealer dreams of making, which he’d bought at an estate sale in 2001 for $6,500.
The dark wooden table is a distinctive piece, painted with playing cards and flowers.
With King George II era lattice work and King George III era ball and claw feet made it an usual item.
Two years later in June, 2006, limping Levan turned up again in the Baltimore antiques shop.
With him were a couple William Holden and his wife Kathleen, who is originally an O’Brien from Rathkeale, along with a number of other travellers.
The card table was still there and Levan offered €28,000 for the table after an initial offer to swap it for a pair of reproduction wine coolers and Irish peat buckets.
Last week in Baltimore City Circuit Court, lawyers for Mack described what happened next as a “classic diversion theft.”
Levan and Holden and other members of the group distracted Mack by walking about asking questions while the table was shifted out of the store under moving mats.
Mack filed criminal charges after weeks of attempting to force the Holdens to cough up the money and eventually was paid $10,000 in September 2006
In court the Holdens claimed that Mack had agreed to the deal in which the coolers and buckets were swapped for the table.
They counter-sued on the grounds that the antiques dealer had used criminal charges to enforce a civil contract.
They also claimed that Mack sold the wine coolers for $22,500 and had made a profit on the deal.
The Baltimore City Circuit Court jury, however, didn’t buy their story.
But Elmer Mack is not finished with the case and plans to sue the Holdens for taking a malicious lawsuit against him.
It is possible that any assets own by Levan in Rathkeale or Cottenham, Cambridgeshire could be targeted through the courts.
Levan Slattery was upset when the Sunday World previously revealed his predilection for driving a Porsche.
It was a claim he hotly denied in an irate telephone and claimed the information put his family in danger of kidnap.
Kidnappers were not his only worry at that time in 2004.
Levan had fallen foul of Customs and Excise who had seized a camper van which had failed to register properly in Ireland.
“Who has been talking to you? It’s sheer lies,” he said, “whatever chance I had of getting my camper van back now is gone to tell you the honest truth. Why did someone tell you this?”
“I’m over here in the UK trying to earn a living. What happens if one of my kids are kidnapped?” he asked at the time.
Levan was quick to claim that publicity about him could well endanger his family and was keen to know the source of the story.
“I’m disabled, I’ve a bad leg. I’m a polio victim. Did whoever was telling you about me tell you about that?” he complained.
The traveller trader has amassed a handsome fortune thanks to his wheeling and dealing in the world of antique furniture.
Despite his cash resources Levan still takes to the road and was part of a massive traveller invasion in Wexford in the summer of 2004.
He ran in trouble with the law when he refused to leave a bar and began abusing gardai who had been called to the rowdy scene.
That weekend 18 Rathkealers were arrested and charged for public order offences in the area.
The wheeler and dealer is part of a core of Rathkeale traders who specialise in antiques, buying goods cheap and selling high.
The most successful, Simon Quilligan, also known as Sammy Buckshot, has an shop stuffed full of valuables antiques in the tourist town of Adare.
- Eamon Dillon, Sunday World, 7 December 2020.