Disgraced financier collected Thomas Kinkade

File under R, for "ridiculous": Disgraced former financial adviser Gary Armitage's debts have spiraled to nearly $90 million, according to bankruptcy filings, the majority of it owed to former clients accusing him of fraud and misappropriating their funds. So what did Armitage do with their hard-earned money?

As with any good Ponzi scheme, some of that missing $90 million allegedly went toward paying fake returns to earlier investors -- and another large chunk was used to finance a lavish lifestyle. The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, California, reports: "Under an agreement reached with the trustee, Armitage has been forced to surrender his $11,000 wine collection and most of his approximately 50 paintings, primarily by pop illustrator Thomas Kinkade, valued at $26,000."

What? The guy steals $90 million and snaps up schmaltzy paintings by "the painter of light," who sells his faith-inpsired sentimental village scenes on QVC, and also finds time to publish an endless stream of inspirational novels and Bible-verse calendars? Didn't he have art consultants ready to take him by the hand to Christies or Sotheby's or some other high-end auction house, to buy, er, real art? To borrow a line from Alanis Morissette, "It's like ray-ee-ain on your wedding day. It's a free ride when you've already paid. It's the good advice that you just didn't take."

...And who would've thought... it figures."

The Thomas Kinkade angle on the Armitage scandal suggests that, if all the allegations and reports are to be believed, this is a guy with absolutely no class at all, not even superficial class: stealing money from the elderly to buy limited edition Christian-themed prints is about as lame and un-Christ like as it gets.

It's also indicative of Armitage's incompetence as an investor -- assuming that he was buying the Thomas Kinkade paintings for appreciation. If he bought "50 paintings, primarily by pop illustrator Thomas Kinkade" to decorate his house then, well. . . That could actually work in his favor if he decides to go the "plead insanity" route. But as investments, Thomas Kinkade's mass-produced limited edition prints have produced dismal returns.

In 2003, The Los Angeles Times reported that Kinkade's company had been "flooding the market with cheap reproductions", proving once again the best rule of thumb for would-be investors in collectible: Never buy for investment any product that was manufactured with the intent of being a collector's items. "Limited edition?" Head for the hills. "Heirloom quality?" Run. And if you see a Kinkade print in your financial adviser's office, call your attorney general and find a new adviser.

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