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Update: The great Stradivarius swindler is jailed for six years

Dietmar Machold, 63, was found guilty today in Vienna of fraud involving precious violins. He was sentenced to six years in jail.

More than a dozen instruments are still missing.

The sentence was shorter than than maximum ten years as the judge, Claudia Moravec-Loidolt, took his late confession into account. Many who trusted Machold with their instruments will, however, be disappointed that no fuller explanation was forthcoming of his many frauds and fiddles.

Machold, at his peak, lived the high life in a Schloss with a trophy wife and every imaginable luxury. His appearance of prosperity fooled many customers, though not old-timers in the violin trade who always regarded him with a degree of suspicion.

In the later stages of his business, he appears to have operated a Ponzi scheme – paying off creditors with money received from newly-received instruments, whose owners never got paid.

The case was further complicated by the intense secretiveness of the trade in high-worth musical instruments. We have not got to the bottom of it yet, and some suspect the rotten-egg Machold may have acted with accomplices.

A lawyer by training, Machold worked every possible loophole to feed his insatiable greed. He is the closest thing the music worls has seen to Bernie Madoff.


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  1. Joep Bronkhorst says:

    Machold schmachold. Violin dealers the world over have pulled the same tricks, on the basis that viewers wouldn’t know a an Amati from a Daniel Parker. And who’s to say that audiences would do any better in a blind test?

  2. 6 years? Should have been 16 years.

  3. The latest, but by no means the last, in a long tradition of confidence tricksters.
    Why does this keep happening ? The stringed instrument trade is intransparent, with many buyers who are not players, and therefore have no practical purpose for buying other than investment – which means the belief that someone else will pay even more in the future for something that they also probably cannot play.
    Added to which, to a player, the difference between a priceless master instrument, and an affordable modern one, is as much in the mind as the ear.
    This combination of imagination, greed and ignorance makes a perfect environment for fraud to go undetected.
    It is a wonder that there aren’t many more such people……unless there are ?

  4. John Thornton says:

    Some whom were close to Machold early on now (publicly) claim that they had knowledge that criminally fraudulent deals were taking place. Roger Hargrave and Jakob Saunders (categorically stating) that they were numbered amongst ”the luthiers” whom first worked (in the main) as set up technicians / restorers for Machold, in Germany. FULL STOP Why didn’t these supposedly “honest” Englishmen blow the whistle back then?
    A singular, plurally correct, answer does exist.

    • Roger Hargrave says:

      We did [redacted]. It was thirty years ago and we were working with small families to feed. Get your facts right. You have no idea what happened to us as a result of blowing the bloody whistle.

      • Really [redacted] ??
        If you had, thirty years ago, ‘blown the whistle’ loud enough and in the right ears Machold would have been immediately arrested, prosecuted, tried, and convicted.

        “Truth crushed to earth shall rise again!” ~ Jean Delphin Alard

  5. John Thornton says:

    I knew personally one of Dietmar Machold’s top salesmen, whom he (Machold) lured away from Rene Morel&Gradoux-Matt, before things started caving in. Due to this situation: In that I tried to help save the very life of said salesman when All of his friends and relatives had thrown him into the gutter, I was made privy to information concerning all of the shenanigans that all of the NYC dealers had tried to pull off, or did pull off; including those of the 2 (two) “major” dealers in Chicago. Not only that, it is a well covered up fact that Charles Beare was standing squarely in the middle of every “deal” that went down, over a period of more than 20 years.

    Joel Levin, may you rest in peace and may YAHWEH have mercy on your deeply wounded, tormented soul.

  6. No instruments are unacounted for, that more than a dozen were “missing” is nonsense.
    Machold was convicted of embezzeling instruments, max. penalty 10 years, since he confessed and (kind of) said he was sorry, 6 years is absolutly correct.
    I, once upon a time, worked for his father, Heinz M. as a restorer. I handed in my notice 27 years ago. Perhaps I should blow a whistle on Mr. Thornton, who advertises his Saxon made “Guarneri del Gesu” violin on Ebay for millions of dollars.

    • John Thornton says:

      Two’fers for Goofers!


      You’re a day late and a few million dollars short.
      Ain’t that a shame…

    • John Thornton says:

      Leopold, get your facts straight.
      There are instruments missing and unaccounted for.
      Wanna see proof of provenance & pictures? I’ve got both.
      Who cares if you worked for Machold’s old man?

      (The owner of this forum has my consent to give you my email address.)

  7. Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

    Rants like those above (and surely to follow below) are precisely why John Thornton of Brewton, Alabama and his so-called “expert” Gerard Murphy of the UK have both been shunned by the entire violin community, banned from every relevant chatroom or discussion group related to violin, and most recently, shut down by eBay.

    Like cockroaches, Thornton and his ilk will eventually crawl back, hiding behind different screen names, making more nonsensical claims and lies and indulging in logical fallacies and paranoid fantasies, all the while attempting to bully those who expose their schemes and their lies.

    Fortunately for the rest of the world, nobody cares and John Thornton is safely ensconced in irrelevance.

    • John Thornton says:

      And one for the road…..

      Gennady? Feelamanoff?
      Oh yes of course…the (Machold puppet) fiddler from Seattle no doubt.
      Just so ya know pal….
      I’ve never hidden from anyone, anywhere, at anytime.
      Nor am I a cockroach, if you don’t believe it try stepping on my back.
      If you think that Jed Murphy and John Thornton are so irrelevant, why even mention our names?
      The facts are these:
      You’re playing a lousy J. B. Vuillaume and I’m playing a 1741Guarneri del Gesu that can bite yours in half.
      You might want eBay to “shut me down”, but that won’t happen on your account or say-so.
      This ain’t a “violin related internet chat-room”, but it is a LEVEL playing field.
      By the way, Gennady, when was it that you got banned from Huh?
      Oh yeah, I’m still waiting for the FBI agents (you claimed–2005-06 @ V.Com– to have sicked on me) to show up but they haven’t yet. Do you reckon they got lost on the way from Seattle, Washington to Brewton, Alabama? I’ll leave the light on for your FBI “buddies”, in case they show up tonight.

    • John Thornton says:

      By the way, Gennady, you might wanna be a little more careful about describing me as… “What an idiot”… in any internet forum, or speaking those words in private or publicly.
      I’ve got more friends in “your neighborhood” than you do.
      Trust me sonny boy… I’m not “a doctor”.

  8. V. I. Olin says:

    That John Thornton has not only discovered (on eBay) a 1719 Stradivarius and, some years later in another venue, a 1741 Guarnerius del Gesu as well: then to have a competent, honest, professional luthier in the UK (Gerard Murphy) confirm his discoveries is absolutely amazing. This doesn’t require rocket science, you know.

    However, the reason most mainstream fiddle dealers, luthiers, and players in classical music circles can’t accept the fact is pretty easy to explain… they simply refuse to believe the fact. Facts scare these people silly!

    Now let Charles Beare ‘discover’ something like that… even if it were lying half-covered with mud in a slimy stinking pig sty…and then alert the media: the whole classical musical world will bow down before him and delightfully lick (the pigs) manure from the soles of his shoes.

    Yummie yummie yummie on their tummie tummie tummies!!

    A Faithful Reader….

  9. Rather than using eBay as free false advertising for passing off mediocre and worse fiddles as a bit more than they are, anyone who has found a genuine Cremonese would have real experts (that doesn’t include Murphy, John, whom nobody has ever heard of and nobody except you trusts), look at it, verify it, then make a profit.

    This is why Thornton, and friends have never made a real sale – because they don’t have the goods to sell or the guts to admit it. Instead they troll around the internet with their transparent little scams, such as on respected forums. Thornton has dozens of user id’s (such as the VIOLIN one he just created above). He cannot stop himself, clearly he has a compulsion he cannot resist – such as the compulsion which will make him react to this message. Go ahead, John, do it and get it over with.

    • J.H. eh? Ummm… now who might “you be”?
      Why, you’re the magnanimous house mouse @!
      That “highly respected” forum, yeah buddy…
      Right? ________ Good answer, Jeffrey!!

      Mirror on the wall, help me find that crystal ball,
      They’ve all gone mad over me, and a 1741 GDG.

    • As this has gotten way “off topic”, Jeffrey, and didn’t check my email, I now see that you added a few ‘too personal’ anecdotes.

      For the record: You haven’t the foggiest idea of who I am or what I’m about; whether personally, physically, mentally, spiritually.

      That being said: It’s best that you start minding your own business; then you’ll have neither reason, nor need, to help me mind mine.

  10. A note from the moderator: This exchange has tipped over repeatedly into personal abuse. Future posts containing such abuse will be spammed out.

    • Dear Mr. Lebrecht,

      Please know that your forum is very much appreciated by this veteran of the United States Marine Corps.
      My skin is as thick as need be in repelling these viscious ‘professional-luthier-grade’ assaults upon my personal integrity and quality of the instruments in my collection.
      Please continue filtering out the worst of the “personally” abusive commentary directed towards me, but do continue sending the full (unfiltered) texts to my inbox.
      All will come in quite handy, at a time and place yet to be appointed.

  11. OK!! Who’s the next poster from the curently ‘relevant’ chatroom [ ] wishing to appear?
    How about… the certain Stephen Maloney — (aka) ‘steven james’ (aka) ‘studivarius’ (aka) ‘steverino’ ?
    Where are you, boy?

  12. Anyone wishing to engage in intelligent, polite, discussions related to stringed instruments may join this forum:

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