Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Strange Case of Joseph Tang

On the evening of November 28, 2007, Joseph Tang, twenty-something Canadian violinist, played a concert (featuring some of Beethoven's most heroic music) at Beall Hall in Eugene, Oregon.  When he got done, he was arrested backstage, though not for playing out of tune or playing too many wrong notes.  Tang, a sometime student at San Francisco State University and the University of Oregon, was arrested on federal fraud charges for cheating several violin collectors and dealers out of thousands of dollars in the sale of violins from April, 2002 through December, 2006 – ten counts in all.  Each count carried a maximum 20-year sentence – a total of 200 years.  There were actually more victims involved than those of record but several dealers and buyers could not press charges because there was no documentation for their transactions.  Some of San Francisco’s well-known violin dealers were among those strung along by Tang, as well as people from as far away as Japan, Germany, England, and Sweden.  A single collector (who should remain anonymous) lost close to $150,000, according to his own estimate.  For centuries, in the violin trade, dealers, buyers, and brokers, when engaged in a potential sale, have trusted each other implicitly and violins have been borrowed, lent, and played without so much as a tiny, dated receipt changing hands.  So it went with Tang.  He accepted many instruments on consignment (bows, too), sold them, and ran with the money.  It took one irate client to bring Tang down.  The instrument in question was a cheap, $1,250 violin.  The victim was a retired police officer who wanted the violin for his little daughter.  The officer said the violin was not what Tang claimed it was.  He wanted his money back but Tang ignored him then disappeared.  The officer complained to the U.S. postal inspector.  The inspector investigated then pressed charges.  After making a court appearance, Tang was released on bail.  Many people claimed he actually stole more than a million dollars, though most of it (of course) could not be substantiated.  A retired math professor who invested all of his savings in violin acquisitions claimed Tang took everything he had.  Some time later (2008), Tang pled guilty and was sentenced to 37 months in jail and ordered to pay more than $400,000.  He is due out in November, 2011.  (to be continued)

1 comment:

  1. The posted picture is a detail from one my own paintings - copied from a Gauguin painting.