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Correction appended.

"Painter of Light" Thomas Kinkade is being accused of hoodwinking investors and leaving them in the dark. While arbiters awarded two former Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery owners $860,000 this year, other former dealers have claims pending that accuse Kinkade of using his Christian faith to defraud them.

"I take no pleasure in being the one to cast the first stone," said Norman Yatooma, the attorney representing 25 former dealers from seven states. "But fraud is a terrible thing. It is horrifying when it is done in the name of God. The bottom line is Kinkade has used God for profit."

Now the FBI is apparently investigating. Though the bureau does not confirm or deny its investigations, Yatooma told CT that agents have contacted him. A few former dealers, speaking anonymously with the Los Angeles Times, confirmed the same. But Thomas Kinkade Company's CEO, Dan Byrne, denied that federal agents have contacted the Morgan Hill, California–based company and flatly stated that Kinkade has never used Christianity to seduce investors.

"Thom's faith is simply a fact of who he is," Byrne told CT. "But it is not part of a business plan or a business presentation."

At issue, Byrne said, were a few disgruntled investors who failed as gallery operators. "All these plaintiffs owe the company significant sums of money," he said. And the plaintiffs' attorney has courted media interest, Byrne said, "to get the company to settle and bring embarrassment and pressure on Thom."

Controversy has surrounded Kinkade for the past four years, after stock of the company he took public (Media Arts Group) plummeted from a high of $23 a share to less than $3. In 2004, he bought the company back at about $4 a share. Kinkade is now the ...

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November 2006

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