A corporation has filed suit against Roland Tseng, donor of the Tseng family collection, alleging fraud for selling artifacts that were “not authentic and genuine,” according to court documents obtained by the Daily Sundial. The document also names a company, which is owned by Frank Preusser, who CSUN officials said authenticated the Tseng collection of artifacts, as a subject in the suit.
The suit, filed April 5 in Los Angeles Superior Court by Zalemark Inc., alleges that Tseng and his company HMFIC, LLC and others “conspired and agreed among themselves . . . in a deliberate, concerted and calculated effort to defraud and violate the rights of (Zalemark).”
The suit contends that a written investment agreement was entered into on or about June 12, 2005 that transferred 40 percent of all issued shares of Zalemark, a company that specializes in selling cut diamonds and jewelry, to HMFIC in exchange for certain rare artifacts including, but not limited to, a Ming Dynasty Chenghua (“Chinese Cup”), according to the court documents.
The suit alleges breach of written contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; fraud; negligent misrepresentations; conspiracy; internal interference with prospective economic advantage; and declaratory relief against HMFIC. The suit accuses Frank Preusser and Associates Inc. of negligence.
The Ming cup was originally meant to be part of a donation to CSUN, according to a letter of provenance reportedly provided by Tseng to Zalemark, according to documents obtained by the Sundial.
Tseng made a $38 million pledge of ancient Chinese artifacts to CSUN in 2003 and has donated eight objects that the university states are worth more than $20 million.
Last week the Sundial reported that several scholars had serious doubts about the authenticity of the artifacts given to CSUN by Tseng.
Preusser, a consultant, authenticated the objects, according to CSUN officials.
CSUN officials turned down an offer from a retired curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, George Kuwayama, to examine the artifacts, the Sundial reported.
Ming Dynasty chicken cups are extremely valuable, according to an East Coast art expert who preferred to remain anonymous.
The expert said there are fewer than 20 known Ming chicken cups in the world, and estimates that one might sell on the open market for $8 million.
The last Ming chicken cup on the open market sold for more than $3.7 million in 1999 in Hong Kong.
The court documents allege: “At the time Defendants made these representations, they knew they were false. The true facts were that the artifacts including, but not limited to, the Chinese Cup delivered to the Plaintiff were not authentic and genuine.”
The Sundial obtained copies of documents, purportedly given to Zalemark to substantiate the authenticity of the artifacts that state that the chicken cup was appraised by Tseng himself at a value of $4 million, based on what he called his “professional judgment.”
The document, purportedly written and signed by Tseng, states, “I am in the business of both acquiring and appraising Asian Art, specializing in Chinese and Japanese antiquities. Attached and as an integral part of this appraisal is my resume with qualifications and certifications in the field of Asian Art ‘ Antiquities.”
The documents have a copy of a single-page provenance – a record of an object’s history- of the chicken cup indicating how Tseng acquired the object. It states that the cup was “originally from the inventory of the Ministry of Culture, State Bureau of Cultural Relics, and on display in the Great Hall of Imperial Porcelains, in the Palace Museum, Beijing.”
The document continues: “In 1988 The cup was presented to Mr. Roland Tseng by the State Bureau of Cultural Relics in a ceremony at the Palace Museum acknowledging Roland Tseng’s assistance and cooperation to promote cultural heritage and appreciation for the conservation and understanding of cultural relics.”
According to the provenance document, “the cup has been scientifically authenticated by Preusser, Preusser and Associates, and was considered as part of a ($)38 million gift to the California State University Northridge by Roland Tseng but ownership was transferred to HMFIC, LCC by Roland Tseng, in 2005, and subsequently in July 2005, title and legal ownership was transferred to Steven Zale, of Zalemark Inc. ?”
The documents contain a six-page examination report by Preusser, authenticator for Tseng and CSUN, of the chicken cup and states, under the subtitle Conclusion, “All observed evidence is consistent with the object’s assumed time and region of manufacture and strongly supports its historical/archaeological origin.”
Documents contain parts of a biography of Tseng from the Oviatt Library Web site. They also contain the inner cover of the 2004 catalog for the CSUN exhibition of artifacts of Tseng’s personal collection and artifacts he donated to CSUN. The inner cover states “Beginning today the university is proud to share these treasures publicly” and is signed by CSUN President Jolene Koester.
Tseng stated in court documents filed Sept. 15, 2004, in relation to his divorce, that “In order to generate interest in my art, I entered negotiations with California State University Northridge to display my art.”
The next hearing for the lawsuit is a conference-case management meeting scheduled for Aug. 7.
None of the other defendants named in the suit are known to have filed a response to the lawsuit at press time.
Preusser did not return phone calls. Tseng could not be reached.
Robert McDonald can be reached at email@example.com.