Philip Righter, a 43-year-old man living in California, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud, tax fraud, and identity theft in his efforts to sell fake works he said had been created by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and other artists. He was charged in Los Angeles federal court on Tuesday and could face up to 25 years in prison.
A report by Courthouse News states that Righter ran a fraudulent art operation from 2016 to 2018, and he faces additional charges in Florida, where, according to the plea agreement, he attempted to sell fake works to a Miami gallery.
The plea agreement reveals that Righter used fake stamps of authentication and drafted false provenance documents for the works he sold. For pieces he claimed were by Basquiat, he also made fake gallery labels so as to make them appear to have been bought from New York’s Annina Nosei Gallery, which helped make Basquiat famous during the 1980s.
According to the document, Righter also used the fake artworks to obtain loans of various amounts and falsified information on tax documents. Additionally, Righter allegedly used fake identities in many of his dealings.
Righter is required “to pay full restitution to the victims of the offenses to which [he] is pleading guilty,” and the court “may order [him] to pay restitution in the form of any additional taxes, interest, and penalties that [he] owes to the United States.”
“Hopefully this will send a message from the FBI’s Art Crime Team and the United States Attorney’s Office that these types of cases will be fully prosecuted,” Erik Silber, a prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, told Courthouse News.