Art forger cheated collectors out of more than $200,000 by selling replica woodcuts as historical masterpieces

by MMC
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He was sentenced to 52 months in prison for deception.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania said Washington, 61, was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.

Prosecutors described a scheme spanning 2013 to 2016 in which he conspired with romantic partners to deceive unsuspecting people. art buyers in France and the United States.

In a sentencing memo, Washington’s defense attorney described him as a “highly skilled wood engraver, which allowed him to sell wooden blocks that appeared authentic.”

According to prosecutors, Washington worked with his then-wife, Zsanett Nagy, announcing that the counterfeit woodcuts dated from the 15th to early 20th centuries.

In one case, the prosecutor’s office said Washington promised 15 units of “15th century Reformation/Lutheran woodblocks” to collectors in France.

The buyers transferred nearly $85,000 via PayPal to Nagy, only to learn that the the artwork was fake, » prosecutors said.

According to an indictment filed last year, Nagy quickly withdrew the money in cash, avoiding any prospect of the payment being reversed.

Another Pennsylvania collector paid $118,810 to Washington and a romantic partner in exchange for 130 wooden boards, which were also touted as historic and “rare,” according to court documents.

Once again, these claims were false.

Washington was ordered to pay $203,240.90 in restitution to his victims, according to a judgment filed March 28.

Nagy was ordered to pay $107,159.25 and serve two years in prison in January 2024. She faces deportation to Hungary, prosecutors said.

A years-long investigation led to the confiscation of more than 1,000 paintings believed to have been created by the late Indigenous artist Norval Morriseau.

Given the high financial stakes, art collectors are nervous about falling victim to art fraud, according to a 2023 wealth report. by Chubb Insurance Company.

The report, which surveyed 800 wealthy North American art collectors about their assets, found that 87 percent are concerned about art fraud and the authenticity of their works.

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