Duking It Out With Peter the Cheater
Times Staff Writer
May 23, 2006
Lord Peter the Cheater was trying to talk himself out of a prison term stemming from a stolen 350-year-old oil painting when last we heard from him.
The Long Beach man had been exposed as a smooth-talking con artist who set Great Britain on its ear by romancing a string of women while pretending to be a member of the English aristocracy.
He had pleaded guilty to taking a stolen 17th century painting by Flemish master David Teniers the Younger out of the United States and trying to sell it to a London gallery for $150,000. But he had reformed, Charles Lee Crutcher told a federal judge in Los Angeles in 1994. He had changed his ways, he promised.
"I know now I have to actually work the rest of my life. I've done exemplary work at Starbucks," he said. "It's given me an extraordinary opportunity. I've cleaned up my act."
Charles Crutcher was acting like aristocracy in the 1980s in Great Britain.
Born in Los Angeles and raised in Lakewood, he moved to England in 1977.
His Chelsea neighbors knew him as Lord Peter de Vere Beauclerk, the son of the Duke of St. Albans. He dressed in dignified, well-tailored suits and bowler hats and always carried a neatly furled umbrella when he walked his Labrador named Hussar. He variously described himself as a highly educated investments advisor to the Vatican or as a financial consultant to the city of London who belonged to the same polo club as Prince Charles.
Although authorities said he was married to a British woman and had a 3-year-old daughter, Crutcher swept a string of other unsuspecting women off their feet, including the daughter of the royal jeweler. When he asked her to marry him she said yes.