NY charges three over Damien Hirst forgery ring

British artist Damien Hirst poses before his creation ‘The immortal’ in 2010. — AFP pic
British artist Damien Hirst poses before his creation ‘The immortal’ in 2010. — AFP pic

NEW YORK, June 20 — New York prosecutors unveiled charges yesterday against three men accused of manufacturing and selling US$400,000 (RM1713,000) in fake Damien Hirst prints to dozens of art buyers around the world.

Vincent Lopreto, 52, appeared in court yesterday, 15 days after being released from prison for previously selling knock-off Hirst works online, prosecutors said.

Famed for his stuffed sharks, the 52-year-old Hirst has amassed a fortune as the most commercially successful member of the Young British Artist movement that dominated the British art scene in the 1990s.

Manhattan’s district attorney Cyrus Vance also announced grand larceny and scheme to defraud charges against Arizona’s Paul Motta, 50 and Marco Saverino, 34.

The defendants faked paperwork to deceive buyers into believing the prints were genuine, stealing US$400,000 from victims in New York and as far afield as Britain, Canada, Germany, South Africa, South Korea and Taiwan, prosecutors said.

Two sales were made to an undercover investigator posing as a buyer.

Authorities confiscated tools allegedly used to create the forgeries from Lopreto’s apartment in New Orleans, Louisiana, said Vance’s office.

Hirst won the Turner Prize in 1995 and went on to attract a huge following that went well beyond the rarefied confines of conceptual art.

He figures regularly on lists of Britain’s wealthiest people, thanks partly to a 2008 auction at Sotheby’s that saw him cut out gallery middlemen to sell 223 new pieces for US$141 million.

Lopreto pleaded guilty in January 2014 to selling forged Hirst prints online. — AFP

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