Michael Andrew Cobosco, owner of Boca Auction Gallery, has been charged with seven counts of grand larceny and theft in Palm Beach County for withholding money and/or property from clients who consigned items to be auctioned by his firm. In all, Cobosco is accused of defrauding various parties that have come forward so far to the tune of about $86,000.
Arrested in April, the 37-year-old Cobosco is next scheduled for a court date of October 9, according to the office of assistant state attorney Michael Rachel, at which time the date for a trial may be set. The auctioneer, who is currently free on bond, is also the target of a civil suit filed in Queens, N.Y., charged with similarly defrauding a Bayside, N.Y., resident who consigned tens of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry for auction but failed to receive money or goods in return.
The pattern is consistent in both cases. Cobosco, owner and president of Boca Auction Gallery, is accused of taking furniture, paintings, jewelry and other items, selling them but never paying the consignors. In Florida, when angry consignors went to the business to complain, they found it locked and vacated.
Before his arrest this past spring, Cobosco voluntarily arrived at the Boca Raton Police Department in December 2006 to answer several complaints about stolen money and property, according to Detective Robert Flechaus, the arresting officer. At that time, Cobosco told his interviewer that he had some financial problems stemming from injuries in April 2006 when he fell off one of his trucks.
“Cobosco said that after he sold the clients property he used he money to pay for his medical bills,” stated Flechaus in his police report, adding, “that he misused the clients’ money and did so without their knowledge and permission.”
As for the vacant storefront, Cobosco told the detective that he had to move out of his warehouse and place the customers property in a storage truck or self-storage bins.
While there are many individual consignors claiming to have been defrauded by Cobosco, one of the most aggrieved victims in this case is First Data Merchant Services, a national firm with headquarters in Colorado that many dealers in the antiques and auction trade use every day to process sales transactions. According to the police report, First Data was Boca Raton Auction Gallery’s merchant bank, and it is out some $52,000 in uncovered refunds of deposits by Cobosco’s clients, which they had placed on merchandise being offered at auction.
Prosecutor Rachel said that he was not permitted to comment on the possible outcome of an open case, but based on the amount of money Cobosco allegedly stole †two counts over $20,000 and the others less than that †sentencing guidelines could carry a maximum of 15 years in jail for the first two counts and five years maximum for each of the others.
The Boca Police Department’s Detective Flechaus further stated that any complaints concerning Cobosco and Boca Auction Gallery can be forwarded to him at Boca Raton Police Department, 100 NW Boca Raton Boulevard, Boca Raton, FL 33432; 561-338-1234.