Advertisement

An art forger duped collectors out of more than $200K, selling replica woodcuts as historic masterpieces

Artist's hands working on an art piece with tools and wood.
A stock image shows an artist working on an art piece using tools and wood.Kevin Wells/Getty Images
  • An art forger duped art collectors by making woodcuts and touting them as rare historic artworks.

  • Earl Marshawn Washington sold counterfeit art online, swindling art collectors out of over $200,000.

  • A federal judge sentenced him to 52 months in prison and ordered him to pay back the victims.

An art forger duped art collectors out of more than $200,000 by crafting replica woodcuts and passing them off as historic masterpieces.

A statement the Department of Justice released Tuesday described the sentencing of Earl Marshawn Washington.

The US Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania said Washington, 61, was sentenced to 52 months in prison for conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.

Prosecutors described a ruse spanning from 2013 to 2016 in which he conspired with romantic partners to dupe art buyers in France and the US.

In a sentencing memo, Washington's defense lawyer described him as a "highly skilled wood engraver, which allowed him to sell wood blocks that appeared to be authentic."

Prosecutors said Washington worked with his then-wife Zsanett Nagy, 32, advertising the counterfeit woodcuts as being from between the 15th and early 20th centuries.

The Attorney's Office said that Washington promised 15 units of "15th.C Reformation/Lutheran wood blocks" to collectors in France.

The buyers transferred nearly $85,000 to Nagy via PayPal, only to learn that the artworks were fake, prosecutors said.

An indictment filed last year said Nagy quickly withdrew the money as cash, eliminating any prospect of quickly reversing the payment.

Another collector in Pennsylvania paid $118,810 to Washington and a romantic partner in exchange for 130 woodblocks, which Washington also touted as historic and "rare," the court documents said.

Washington was ordered to pay $203,240.90 in restitution to his victims, a judgment filed on March 28 showed.

Nagy was ordered to pay $107,159.25 and was sentenced to time served, followed by two years of supervised release in January 2024. Prosecutors said she is at risk of being deported to Hungary.

In recent years, there have been numerous high-profile instances of art forgeries and fraud, including a case the Ontario Provincial Police branded as the "biggest art fraud in world history." A yearslong investigation led to the confiscation of more than 1,000 paintings by the Ojibwe artist Norval Morriseau.

Given the substantial financial stakes involved, art collectors are nervous about falling victim to art fraud, a 2023 wealth report by the insurance company Chubb shows.

The report surveyed 800 affluent North American art collectors about their assets and found that 87% of survey respondents are concerned about art fraud and the authenticity of their artworks.

Read the original article on Business Insider