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Art Theft

The biggest art con in NYC history: How a brazen $80M scam that fooled collectors with fake Pollock and Rothko masterpieces shook the art world and brought down Manhattan's oldest gallery

* From around 1994 to 2009, over 60 fake pieces of art were sold for $80 million through Knoedler & Co. and a prominent art dealer in New York City

* Established in 1846, Knoedler was one of Manhattan's most respected galleries  
* Long Island art dealer Glafira Rosales peddled what were supposedly masterpieces to Knoedler's Ann Freedman and dealer Julian Weissman

* Rosales said the anonymous owner, the son of a 'Mr. X,' had a trove of paintings from Abstract Expressionists like Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock

* The FBI was tipped off to the fraud and Knoedler closed in 2011 after 165 years. 
* Authorities believe the fakes were made by one man, Pei-Shen Qian, an artist who created the copies at his Queens home. He then fled to China

* Jose Carlos Bergantinos Diaz, Rosales' then boyfriend, aged the paintings, per prosecutors. Bergantinos fled to Spain, which refused to extradite him

* Rosales was arrested in 2013 and eventually cooperated with prosecutors. She was the only one to face criminal charges and pleaded guilty to nine counts

 * The self proclaimed genius US Attorney Preet Bahara (whose Steve Cohen employee stock trading convictions got overturned) fumbled the ball when he could have cross examined Freedman''s spurious art restorer. These brand new concoctions would have melted under solvents just like Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch of the West fared in the Wizard of Oz

* A new documentary, Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art, untangles the scandal that shook the art world and a scheme that fooled many  

In 2019, global art sales were an estimated $64.1 billion, per an Art Basel report.

As to Ann Freedman's guilt or innocence, to quote Robert DeNiro as character Sam Rothstein from the movie Casino: 

 Listen, if you didn't know you were being fucking scammed, you're too dumb to keep this job. If you did know, you were in on it. Either way, you're out! 

Read more on The Daily Mail:

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$80 Million Con


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