The problem with leaving your assistants to create your works is that they're very easy to duplicate. Such is the case with Damien Hirst, who relies on his employees to make his signature dot and spin paintings. Yesterday, a Florida pastor named Kevin Sutherland was convicted for trying to sell Hirst forgeries on eBay, according to the New York Times.
Sutherland was found guilty of second-degree attempted grand larceny, and he faces up to seven years in prison. While he was definitely selling fakes, it's unclear if Sutherland knew that the paintings weren't real Hirsts.
The pastor was caught as part of a greater investigation against Vincent Lopreto, a forger from Laguna Beach, Calif. who admitted to selling many fake Hirst paintings on eBay. One of Lopreto's eBay customers was Sutherland, who tried to flip the forgeries in Florida for a $7,000 profit. When the law came down on Lopreto, he offered up information about Sutherland for a lighter sentence.
It's possible that Sutherland could've kept his illegal activities under the radar, but like many lawbreakers who get away with their crimes, he got too confident. In 2012, Sutherland tried to sell a spin painting that was actually a Lorpeto forgery to Sotheby's. Auction house experts, however, did not authenticate the painting, and by then Hirst's assistants had already smelled a rat and contacted Manhattan's district attorney about their suspicions.
Sutherland was finally caught in the act when an undercover policeman posing as a New York dealer attempted to buy the painting off of him (along with a few other Hirst fakes) right after it was rejected by Sotheby's, a fact that Sutherland failed to mention. While it's still unclear if the pastor knew that the paintings were fake, the fact that he didn't check their authenticity after the Sotheby's decision suggests that he was in a rush to get rid of what he knew was worthless goods.
UPDATE MAY 20, 2014 11:05 A.M. ET: Kevin Sutherland was sentenced to six months in jail and five months probation yesterday because he tried to sell the fake Hirst paintings right after Sotheby's said one of the pieces couldn't be authenticated.
Rachel Hochhauser, an assistant district attorney, said, “This crime was motivated by greed. He did more than try to pass on his financial loss. He tried to get a windfall from it.”
[via New York Times]