Art is big business in New York City. And when works of art are sold for tens of thousands of dollars, collectors and dealers have to be careful that the product they are paying for is authentic and not fraudulent. A New York real estate broker recently found out the hard way that some people will go to great lengths to pass off a fake work of art as a real one. As a result of an apparent art-transaction fiasco, the man recently pled guilty to charges of misdemeanor forgery and false-filing.

The real estate broker, who is also a part-time photography and art dealer, purchased what he thought were three limited-edition prints of British artist Damien Hirst’s dot-patterned works. However, it was discovered after the broker had resold the paintings that the art had been counterfeited.

The man believed he had purchased authentic prints of “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD),” ”Opium” and “Valium” from a man in California, but that man was arrested and sentenced to prison in 2008 for creating fraudulent certificates of authenticity for the prints. According to the broker’s attorney, he had already paid between $40,000 and $45,000 for the fraudulent art when he resold it. “He never knowingly sold counterfeit art,” said the lawyer.

However, the broker recently admitted in court that he falsified appraisals in order to resell the prints for a total of $84,000 to buyers in Canada and Great Britain.

The man’s attorney said that his client had some of the prints appraised in order to determine shipping insurance. The broker then allegedly changed the documents so they would match the other prints and to expedite the shipping process.

In addition to the forgery and false-filing charges, the man also admitted to not reporting the profits from the sales on his state taxes. He is expected to be sentenced this week and will likely serve 60 days in jail and be forced to pay restitution.

Other New Yorkers who are currently facing criminal charges related to business transactions should be fully aware of their rights under New York and federal laws. Mistakes do happen, but that doesn’t mean they were committed intentionally. People who are facing fraud or forgery charges may want consult with a legal professional to help ensure that all of the rights of the accused are upheld in court.

Source:, “Duped in art fraud, NYC man then forged appraisals,” Jan. 13, 2012