NEW YORK—On April 4, in U.S. District Court, St. Louis, Mo., Majed A. Ihmoud, 53, was sentenced to 10 months in prison for mail fraud in attempting to sell a fake painting by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Man with the Golden Helmet, for $2.8 million.
Posing as a Saudi sheik and claiming to be a member of the Saudi royal family, Ihmoud was arrested in a downtown St. Louis hotel on Aug. 12, 2004, as he was making the sale to an undercover agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The actual Man with the Golden Helmet, which dates from approximately 1650, hangs in the Staatliche Museum, Berlin, and is among the institution’s most renowned paintings, although experts concluded in 1986 that the artwork was probably executed by another artist heavily influenced by Rembrandt.
An accomplice of Ihmoud’s, Marilyn Karos, 65, of Whitefish Bay, Wis., who also was arrested in the FBI sting, pleaded guilty last month to both conspiracy and mail fraud. Presently serving a 20-month prison term for possession of stolen art and lying to federal investigators in an unrelated case, Karos is scheduled for sentencing on May 31.
Ihmoud was previously arrested in 2004 for selling a pair of brass doors that, he falsely claimed, had belonged to Muhammad Ali, to another undercover FBI agent for $130,000.
He admitted to federal investigators that he had a plan for selling a series of fake Vincent van Gogh paintings. He had hired an artist to examine van Gogh paintings in the St. Louis Art Museum that would then be forged. According to Pete Krusing, an FBI spokesman in St. Louis, Ihmoud had been “on the FBI’s radar” for a period of time and was targeted for a sting: “Ihmoud does have a prior criminal record involving activities of this sort, as does Karos.”
Ihmoud’s attorney Felicia A. Jones was unavailable for comment.U.S. District Judge Richard Webber sentenced Ihmoud to five months of prison and five months of home confinement, in addition to repaying the government $1,500, the amount he had received as a down payment for the brass doors.