Federal agents have charged a dealer in Palm Beach, Florida, with wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering for selling allegedly fake works of art.Jean-MichelBasquiat, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichensteinand other artists for millions of dollars. Through the Danieli Fine Art and Galerie Danieli galleries, Daniel Elie Bouaziz will have sold reproductions of works of art stamped with fake stamps of authenticity. A complaint filed on May 25 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida alleged that Bouaziz had also sold fake Banksy works,Henri Matisse, Frederick Hundertwasser,Keith Haringand others. In several cases, Bouaziz appears to have purchased works for relatively low amounts and then sold them for dramatically greater amounts. The most expensive work was an unnamed painting supposedly byBasquiatwhich Bouaziz bought on the LiveAuctioneers website for $495. This was sold to an undercover FBI agent for $12 million, according to the complaint. When the agent asked Bouaziz, a French citizen born in Algeria, about the authenticity of the painting, the dealer replied: “Provenance is father ofBasquiatso there is not really a conversation about it”. The FBI agent claims he contacted a former member of the now-defunct estate authentication committeeBasquiat, who was not named in the lawsuit, as this expert said the work was fake.
An undercover agent also purchased an engraving of Lichtenstein by Bouaziz entitledThe Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Bouaziz purchased this piece through LiveAuctioneers for €450 ($485) and sold it for $25,000. According to the suit, it was found in Lichtenstein's catalog raisonné that the actual work had "visibly different" colors, as well as other authentication factors, including a pencil note demarcating its edition, which Bouaziz's work lacked. Federal investigators said that some victims of Bouaziz's alleged scheme contacted the dealer after their purchases, claiming the works they purchased were fake and demanding money back.
“Other victims, who also reported concerns to Bouaziz about the authenticity of their purchased work, both before and after the execution of the gallery search warrants, received some repayment from Bouaziz”, states the suit. Bouaziz currently faces four charges, each carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of between $250,000 and $500,000. Based on documents filed last weekend in Florida, it was unclear whether Bouaziz has filed a claim. Bouaziz's lawyer has not yet responded to a request for comment.