OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. – Federal agents raided the home of an Oakland County art gallery owner Friday at the Colony Hill Drive near 14 Mile and Inkster roads in Franklin.
Wendy Halsted Beard is accused of cheating her clients out of over 100 extremely valuable prints.
Beard took over her father’s boutique photo business out in Birmingham, where she had a shop. It was closed during the pandemic, so she conducted business in her home.
FBI agents from the Financial Crimes Task Force and Art Theft units spent Friday (Oct. 14) moving in and out of Beard’s home. They arrived in force at 7 a.m. with guns drawn and calling her and her husband out with a bullhorn.
Police immediately arrested her and released a 24-page criminal complaint while spelling out the case:
“Over 100 rare fine art photographs with a combined estimated value of approximately $1.6 million have been identified as being consigned to Beard and not returned or sold to victims without being delivered. Beards victims are typically elderly individuals.”
The pictures are from various photographers, none more famous than Ansel Adams. Adams’s photo called the Grand Tetons, and the Snake River, are the most valuable as they are worth $900,000.
Beard agreed to sell it and did for about half its value and when the owner tried to collect, the FBI said she disappeared, offering an audacious excuse through a falsified email account:
“Wendy (Beard) had her double lung transplant and has been a little dicey, but we are hoping they take the vent out and bring her to this afternoon or tomorrow.”
Eventually, the 82-year-old victim went to the Birmingham Police Department. The same pattern developed with other victims, and twice Beard claimed she wasn’t reachable for another outlandish reason using a faked email account:
“On computer finally. Been a crazy last bit. Not all gone but at least out of the months-long coma. Nice to see the sunshine. Sorry so short more later.”