Florida gallery owner charged with peddling fake art pieces

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A Florida gallery operator has been arrested on federal prices for peddling bogus artwork pieces, proclaiming the low-priced reproductions had been in point originals by Andy Warhol, Banksy, Roy Lichtenstein, Jean-Michel Basquiat and some others, federal prosecutors mentioned.

A grievance submitted in South Florida federal court docket Thursday accuses Palm Beach front artwork seller Daniel Elie Bouaziz of mail fraud, wire fraud, and income laundering in his alleged plan to market solid copies of significant-finish artwork.

Bouaziz, a French citizen of Algerian descent, was purchased unveiled on $500,000 bail right after an preliminary listening to Friday. He has not however entered a plea to the rates, in accordance to courtroom data. He could facial area many years in jail if convicted.

Bouaziz offered some of the forged artwork items for hundreds of countless numbers of pounds apiece, prosecutors reported in a information launch. An FBI criminal affidavit mentioned undercover agents place $22 million down for several of the phony items.

Professing to be an artwork pro and an official appraiser, Bouaziz appraised the inauthentic artwork he offered to the victims at an greater level, the FBI affidavit reported. To give one instance, the FBI suggests Bouaziz bought a Warhol copy print for $100 and offered it for $85,000.

He operated two art galleries on Palm Beach’s famed Worth Avenue, one of the wealthiest places in the U.S.

“The FBI did not observe a single transaction in these accounts in which Bouaziz or his galleries ordered large-benefit artwork,” the affidavit says. “Bouaziz procured minimal-value reproductions from on the net auction internet sites that he then resold to unsuspecting victims, as originals, at drastically greater costs.”

And even individuals were being small. For illustration, an first Andy Warhol portray would probably promote for millions of bucks. Bouaziz, according to the FBI, bought one of Warhol’s will work known as “Superman,” of which there have been several versions, for just $25,000.

“I get about 200 paintings in auction each and every calendar year and I warranty my things. I mean I am driving my things,” Bouaziz reported in a discussion recorded by the FBI. “I’m not obtaining items that all people has. Which is why you really do not see them in the other galleries.”

The affidavit does not say how quite a few individuals had been victimized. Bouaziz will have a plea hearing on June 15. No trial day has been scheduled. Bouaziz’s momentary lawyer did not instantly answer to an e-mail looking for comment Saturday.