Original Case Details
Federal authorities raided a house in northern Michigan that they believe is tied to an art forgery scheme that tricks art collectors into buying fake paintings claimed to be painted by top American artists. These artists include Ralston Crawford, Gertrude Abercrombie, and George Ault. Ault was an artist active mainly in the 1940s, while Crawford was mainly active in the 1970s but also had a similar artistic style to Ault. Abercrombie was a surrealist artist mainly active in the 1970s as well. Those involved in the scheme are also believed to be in the business of selling counterfeit sports memorabilia falsely advertised as belonging to baseball hall of famers Babe Ruth, Will Mays, and Lou Gehrig. Investigators believe this is a national crime ring which has conspirators operating in the Detroit area. It is alleged that this ring targeted major galleries with its scheme. Hirschl & Adler, a top American art gallery in New York City, spent nearly half a million dollars in paintings that were part of the alleged scheme. The managing director of the gallery, Elizabeth Feld stated that, “this is every (art) dealer’s nightmare.” Feld also pointed out that the artwork they bought was still beautiful art, even if not painted by the artists claimed. It is important to note that the artwork that is alleged to have been sold are not said to be photocopies of other famous pieces. These are pieces that art claimed to have been unknown pieces of art coming from these famous artists. In order for any of this alleged scheme to work, they have to convince art collectors and art galleries that these pieces were actually painted by a famous artist, something they seem to have done pretty well.
As part of any ongoing investigation, police authorities, in this case the FBI will continue to build their cases against their targeted suspects. What happened in the above case is a warrant was sought by an FBI agent to search this specific property for specific evidence they believe is tied to the crime they are investigating people for. The search warrant in this case authorized investigators to look for evidence including bank records, various artwork that was not painted by the artists claimed to have painted them, as well as counterfeit sports memorabilia. The warrant also authorized investigators to look for supplies that would help the suspects create the fake memorabilia and paintings such as tools, paint, baseballs, etc. Currently, there have been no arrest or charges, but that does not mean that they are not coming soon. Federal authorities are usually very patient with how they build their cases, making sure they gather as much evidence as possible against suspects who could be in an ongoing criminal enterprise.
What Happens Next?
It appears that the FBI is building a case that will likely include charges of forgery, conspiracy, federal internet fraud, wire fraud, among other charges. With the number of alleged victims this case could have, the amount of charges involved could be staggering. Think that every illegal transaction is a charge in itself. When you have an alleged conspiracy such as this, at this magnitude of business, this could very well be an enormous case. Paintings that are involved in this case have fetched in excess of $100,000 per painting. One painting, purported to be painted by the famous George Ault titled “mourning in Brooklyn” for $270,000.
Any Further Questions?
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or being investigated for one, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Grabel & Associates, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in successfully defending criminal cases all over the state of Michigan. This experience extends not only to adult cases, but also to juvenile charges. We are not a general practice firm. We are a team of criminal defense attorneys; it’s all we do. We offer a FREE consultation to anyone with questions relating to a possible or existing criminal charge against them or a loved one. Feel free to contact us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896. You can also contact us online or come visit us at one of our three statewide locations. We can also come to you.