Hampshire & Isle of Wight

eBay antique dealer faked signatures of public figures

Allan Formhals pictured arriving at a earlier hearing
Image caption Allan Formhals had denied all the charges against him

An antiques dealer accused of selling books signed with fake signatures of famous figures on eBay has been found guilty of some of the charges he faced.

Allan Formhals, 66, of Milford on Sea in Hampshire, was found guilty of eight counts of fraud and two of possessing articles for the use in fraud.

He was cleared of two counts of fraud and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on three further counts.

The charges related to signatures from the likes of Churchill and Picasso.

The three charges the jury failed to reach a decision on at Southampton Crown Court will lie on file, the judge said.

Mr Formhals was too ill to appear at court on Thursday.

A previous hearing in Southampton heard Formhals had found books at car boot sales and a recycling centre and added the fake signatures.

Expert's opinion

The court was told he lied to collectors, from as far afield as Texas in the US, about the provenance of the items.

Collector Kim Taylor-Smith bought 68 signed books and documents bearing Winston Churchill's fake signature for about £10,000, prosecutor Simon Edwards said.

Formhals told him the books came from the estate of the late Neville Duke, a famous World War II fighter pilot who lived in Milford on Sea.

However, in November 2010, Mr Taylor-Smith had some of his items examined by an expert in Churchill books and was told they were forgeries.

"A number of items were left with him overnight. He called Mr Taylor-Smith the next day with the ghastly news that each and every Churchill signature was a fake," Mr Edwards said.

Police also found the forged signatures of JRR Tolkien, Oliver Cromwell, Elizabeth I and Marie Antoinette at Formhal's home, the court was told.

Mr Edwards said that when interviewed Formhals told officers he got the books from Wimborne and Matchams car boot sales in Dorset, and denied being responsible for the signatures.

"He said he was not an expert on books and advertised them as signed, as opposed to signed by," he said.

"He believed them to be genuine but he did not advertise them for sale as such or guarantee them as such."

Mr Formhals denied all charges against him, which related activity between 2009 and 2011.

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