Nation: The Straw That Broke...

Mysterious art deals and a $14.5 million bankruptcy

A year ago, Steven Straw was a boy wonder of the art dealers' world. At 26, he owned a highly successful gallery in Newburyport, Mass., full of Oriental rugs, antiques and such masters as Degas, de Kooning and O'Keeffe. He flew around the country in his private Cessna 414 putting together six-figure art deals.

To match potential buyers with his latest acquisitions, he installed a sophisticated computer system in the 172-year-old building that housed his gallery. He hired his own broker, trained by Merrill Lynch, to...

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