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A New Forest antiques dealer has been found guilty of forging the signatures of famous historical figures including Winston Churchill and Elisabeth I.
Allan Formhals, a 66-year-old antique dealer from Milford-on-Sea near Lymington has been convicted of ten counts of fraud at Southampton Crown Court.
Following the verdict Simon Edwards who Prosecuted the trial said:
“Alan Formhals had put in place an effective plan to defraud collectors of thousand of pounds.
“His fraudulent scheme consisted of him forging signatures in books by historic authors such as Winston Churchill and Robert Louis Stevenson to dupe unsuspecting collectors into buying what they thought were genuine historic items but were in fact false.
“Like any professional fraudster, Formhals knew that in order to lure potential victims into buying his fake items he would have to use genuine historic facts to make his story credible to connoisseurs.
"One of these connoisseurs was Mr Kim Taylor-Smith, a Churchill collector. Mr Taylor-Smith spotted the items on an on-line auction website and started an email correspondence with Formhals enquiring as to where the items were coming from.
“Mr Taylor-Smith was curious to know the provenance of the items as he knew that the former prime minister rarely used his name Winston Churchill, to autograph his books and magazines.
“Formhals claimed in one of his emails that the items came from the house of famous Second World War fighter ace Squadron Leader Neville Duke, a friend of Churchill who lived near Formhals in Milford-on-sea and who had died in 2007.
“This appealed greatly to Mr Taylor Smith who paid £10,150 for 68 items of the collection.
"Not long after he took some of these items to be examined by Pom Harrington, an expert in the sale of Churchill’s books. Mr Harrington delivered the ghastly news that each signature was a fake.
"Mr Taylor Smith called then the police after Formhals failed to refund his money for the fake collection.
"He claimed he obtained the books through an old couple who he pretended used to clean the house of Neville Duke after he died and had now moved on.
“Formhals used the same modus operandi to con other collectors. The jury at Southampton Crown Court heard how a Texan man, Basel Boatright was offered for sale twelve volumes of The Christian Science Monitor.
"Mr. Formhals told him they had come from the estate of His Excellency Major General Sir Rohan Delacombe and were signed by Sir Winston Churchill.
"In fact the volumes had been bought at a tip and the signatures were forgeries.
“The antique dealer found another victim in Corinna Honan who bought autographed copies of Island Nights’ Entertainments and Ballads by Robert Louis Stevenson for about £300.
"She then paid him for more signed books by Joseph Conrad, Douglas Grant and Pablo Picasso for a further £967.
“The extent of Formhals’ fraud was revealed when the police searched his house and found alongside a calligraphy pen and brown ink a number of autograph books and papers containing forged signatures ranging from Winston Churchill, Tolkien, Elisabeth I and Oliver Cromwell.
“Formhals fooled collectors into believing they were buying the real thing, we hope that with this conviction people will see the commitment of the police and CPS to prosecute those involved in any fraudulent activity when there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest..”
Allan Formhals was found guilty of ten counts of fraud. He was acquitted of two. The jury could not reach a verdict on the three remaining counts.