PROVINCETOWN — Melissa Jerace, owner of the East End gallery Domingos En La Playa, faces two counts of forgery of a check and forgery of a deposit slip. The charges, victims say, fit a pattern of deceit going back to 2015.
Court documents show that Jerace, 53, of Truro was summoned to Orleans District Court last year for an Aug. 10 arraignment on the forgery charges. Each count carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in state prison. Her attorney, Michael Pierce of West Barnstable, did not return a call seeking comment. Reached by phone, Jerace declined to comment.
New York artist JD Raenbeau said he has been waiting for $12,000 that Jerace owes him from his sold-out show at her gallery last summer. When he came to Provincetown in November for his honeymoon, he made a surprise visit to her gallery to confront her. He said she gave him a $9,000 check, which was returned for insufficient funds. He told the Independent he is not surprised that Jerace has ended up in criminal court.
Neither is Lauren Powell, 37, who now lives in Los Angeles, where she owns the gallery Lauren Powell Projects. She told the Independent she had known Jerace for eight years, starting when they were both living in Florida.
When Jerace moved to Cape Cod and opened her gallery here in 2020, Powell helped her gather works from artists who would be of interest in Provincetown. As curator of the gallery’s shows in 2021, Powell was to get a 20 percent commission on sales while Jerace would take 30 percent, Powell told the Independent. Powell said she is still waiting to be paid the $8,000 in commissions she earned.
And then there is Lyn Plummer, an owner of Dol-Fin Development, and the landlord who rented Jerace the gallery space at 368 Commercial St. in 2020 and 2021.
Plummer told the Independent by the time the lease agreement ended in 2021, Jerace owed her $26,000 in back rent. Jerace has since paid off that debt, but Plummer said collecting the money through a civil court process cost her $10,000 in attorney’s fees.
The forgery charges originate from Jerace’s plan to stop Plummer from evicting her in June 2021. When pressed to pay $10,000 in back rent, Jerace told Plummer she would be getting a check from her mother to cover the rent, according to a Provincetown police report. She then texted Plummer a photograph of a check for $10,000 from her mother, Charlotte Jerace of Truro and Florida. The police later interviewed Charlotte in Florida and determined that Melissa Jerace had forged her mother’s signature on the check, the police report states.
Jerace also sent a photograph of a deposit slip purporting to show that $10,000 had been placed in Plummer’s account at Seamen’s Bank. When Plummer saw that no money had actually been deposited, and a bank customer service representative told her that the deposit slip had been altered, Plummer went to the police, according to court records.
The criminal case is continued until May 13.
Raenbeau said his efforts to collect from Jerace had been long and fruitless. Trying to track her down online, he discovered additional cases filed against her in Florida. That’s when it dawned on him that “I am never going to get my money.”
According to three separate lawsuits filed in the 15th Judicial Circuit in Palm Beach County, Fla., Jerace told investors, who included friends, business associates, and a former boyfriend, that she planned to open a luxury addiction treatment center, Casa de Luz, and an associated pharmaceutical business in Barbados.
According to court documents, she borrowed a total of $955,000 for her startup businesses from three individuals and two couples. But she never repaid the loans.
Also named in one of the Florida lawsuits is Nicholas Pollard, the senior vice president and managing director of Eastern Region Private Banking, part of U.S. Bank in Palm Beach, Fla. Pollard did not return a call for comment at his bank office on March 29. According to the lawsuit, Pollard signed a letter on behalf of the bank stating that Jerace had the funds to repay her loans.
Court records show Jerace has been a licensed certified addiction professional in Florida since 2005. Powell said Jerace has a way of befriending people in the recovery community when they may be especially vulnerable.
Editor’s note: Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article, published in print on March 31, incorrectly reported that Jerace had paid only part of the back rent on her Provincetown art gallery. She has paid the entire debt.