Florida gallery owner arrested after selling fake art pieces

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A Florida gallery proprietor has been arrested on federal charges for peddling pretend art items, proclaiming the low cost reproductions were in simple fact originals by Andy Warhol, Banksy, Roy Lichtenstein, Jean-Michel Basquiat and others, federal prosecutors stated.

A criticism submitted in South Florida federal courtroom Thursday accused Palm Seashore art vendor Daniel Elie Bouaziz of mail fraud, wire fraud, and income laundering in his alleged plan to sell solid copies of superior-conclude art.

Bouaziz, a French citizen originally from Algeria, was purchased launch on $500,000 bail right after an initial hearing Friday. He has not but entered a plea to the expenses, in accordance to courtroom data.

Bouaziz sold some of the solid art items for hundreds of 1000’s of dollars apiece, prosecutors explained in a news release. An FBI prison affidavit reported undercover brokers place $22 million down for many of the fake pieces.

Boasting to be an artwork skilled and an official appraiser, Bouaziz appraised the inauthentic artwork he marketed to the victims at an increased price, the FBI affidavit said. To give one particular case in point, the FBI claims Bouaziz bought a Warhol reproduction print for $100 and bought it for $85,000.

He owned two art galleries on Palm Beach’s famed Well worth Avenue, a person of the wealthiest areas in the U.S.

“The FBI did not notice a solitary transaction in those people accounts in which Bouaziz or his galleries obtained superior-price artwork,” the affidavit suggests. “Bouaziz bought small-price tag reproductions from online auction web sites that he then resold to unsuspecting victims, as originals, at significantly greater rates.”

And even individuals had been low. For example, an first Andy Warhol portray would very likely offer for hundreds of thousands of bucks. Bouaziz, according to the FBI, sold one particular of Warhol’s works referred to as “Superman,” of which there ended up various variations, for just $25,000.

“I acquire about 200 paintings in auction every single yr and I assurance my things. I indicate I am driving my stuff,” Bouaziz claimed in a dialogue recorded by the FBI. “I’m not buying points that everyone has. Which is why you don’t see them in the other galleries.”

The affidavit does not specify how numerous folks were victimized. Bouaziz will have a plea hearing on June 15. No trial date has been scheduled at this time.

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