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Man gets 5 years for selling forged Basquiat, Haring artworks

A man who attempted to sell forged paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat, similar to the one pictured, was sentenced to five years in prison. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
A man who attempted to sell forged paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat, similar to the one pictured, was sentenced to five years in prison. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

July 17 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Miami has sentenced a man to five years in prison for attempting to sell forgeries of artworks by famous contemporary artists.

Philip Righter, 43, of California, pleaded guilty Thursday to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and tax fraud -- all three felonies -- for a case filed in Los Angeles.

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He confessed he bought art forgeries at online marketplaces and auction websites, and attempted to make them look legitimate by creating letters certifying their authenticity. He also designed custom embossers bearing the names of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring -- the artists whose forged paintings he tried to sell.

Righter then attempted to sell the forgeries to galleries and auction houses, often telling elaborate lies about the artworks' provenance.

The U.S Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida said the FBI seized a number of the forged artworks when he shipped them to a potential buyer in South Florida. He was asking a gallery owner there to wire $1.06 million to his bank account.

The FBI's Art Crime Team ultimately filed two federal cases against Righter -- one in Florida in which he pleaded guilty in March, and the one in Los Angeles.

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Judge Marcia Cooke in Florida sentenced him to five years imprisonment in each case, which will run concurrently.

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