NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- A federal judge has found a use for the bogus works of a convicted art counterfeiter. They will be used to teach investigators how to spot art fraud.
Robert Trotter, 35, of Kennett Square, Pa., was sentenced to 10 months in jail and placed on probation three years for bilking art dealers and auction houses of an estimated $135,000 in bogus folk art.
But U.S. District Judge Alan Nevas also ordered Trotter Tuesday to turn over four of his bogus paintings to the Yale University Art Gallery to teach others how to detect fraudulent artworks.
Trotter was required to return $68,400 to three people who bought counterfeit paintings and was told to sign and date any future paintings he creates.
Trotter, an antiques restorer, was charged with bilking customers of about $135,000 in the past five years by passing off as folk paintings copies he made from originals.
Assistant State's Attorney Peter Jongbloed said Trotter was uncovered last year when a couple from Orange bought a painting for $25,000. They determined the painting was a fraud before Trotter cashed the check and notified the FBI.
Gene and Mary Anne Shannon, who own an art gallery in Orange, said the copy of an 1881 work by New Haven artist John Haberle was the best forgery they had ever seen.
The couple said they were satisfied with Trotter's sentence, saying the case would be a lesson to others.
But another of Trotter's victims disagreed.
Stonington art dealer Marguerite Riordan, who lost $62,800 on two Trotter forgeries, said the defendant was given what amounted to 'a 10-month vacation.'