Great Estates owner arrested for theft

A South Kitsap woman who allegedly promised to sell items for clients who claim they were never paid and lost their valuables was charged with theft and faces trial this December in Kitsap County Superior Court.

Alice Simpson, 53, was arraigned Sept. 22 on one count of first-degree theft stemming from allegations by Port Orchard resident Chuck McGuire, who told the Port Orchard Police Department that the defendant scammed him out of a $17,000 photograph.

McGuire said he gave his Edward Curtis “Gold Tone” photograph to Simpson to sell last fall. At the time, Simpson was operating a consignment business on Bay Street — called both Great Estates and Cornucopia Ailisia — which has since closed.

“The whole procedure was a scam I fell for,” said McGuire, explaining that months later when he asked Simpson to either return his photograph or pay him the money it was worth, she refused. Then, in April of this year, McGuire says she admitted to him that she sold the photograph for $9,000 but no longer had the money.

McGuire then filed a report with the POPD, and Det. E.J. Martin began investigating his claims. According to Martin’s probable cause statement, a background check of both Simpson and Great Estates revealed “a number of cases” filed against her, including one that was investigated by the Bainbridge Island Police Department in 2001 and included nine victims that accused Simpson of similar actions.

In addition, Simpson was sued last year by Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna for allegedly cheating customers like McGuire out of the proceeds from items they had given her to sell.

“Based upon her present and past actions, I believe Simpson uses her business to commit fraud,” Martin wrote. “I (also) believe that Simpson has shown that her intent is to deprive victims of their property, (and) that she had no intent to pay McGuire ... and is guilty of first-degree theft.”

Martin said his office has received “a number of complaints” from people claiming that their antiques or other valuable collectables were taken to Simpson, but she failed to either compensate the owner or return the items.

Martin said Simpson closed her business in July, but that she announced her plan to conduct sales online from home.

According to McKenna’s Office, he filed suit against her in April of 2007 because “consumers complained to our office that they provided items worth hundreds or thousands of dollars to (Simpson) with the understanding that she would sell them on their behalf, but they never received payment and the items were not returned to them.

According to the state’s complaint, (Simpson) accept(ed) goods on consignment including jewelry, furniture, art, collectibles and china, taking a commission of generally 35 percent for items sold at an estate sale and 40 percent for items sold online.

In March of this year, the case was settled, according to McKenna’s office. According to the consent decree, Simpson and her two businesses were fined civil penalties of $50,000, which was “suspended on condition of compliance with all the terms of the (judgement),” and listed 15 plaintiffs.

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