California Man Sentenced for Trying to Sell $6 Million in Fake Basquiat and Warhol Paintings

Philip Righter has been sentenced to five years in prison for trying to sell paintings he claimed were created by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol.

Jean Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol attend Gifts For The City Of New York Benefit.

Image via Getty/Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection

Jean Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol attend Gifts For The City Of New York Benefit.

A California man was sentenced on Wednesday to five years in federal prison for trying to sell $6 million worth of paintings he claimed were created by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, and Keith Haring, ABC News reports

Philip Righter, 43, had already pleaded guilty in March to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft in Miami. Righter was sentenced Wednesday to additional counts of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and tax fraud for his case in Los Angeles. He was given five additional years, but the two sentences will run concurrently. A consolidated restitution hearing has been set for September 30. 

Investigators said Righter bought replicated works of the likes of Basquiat and Warhol, and devised a meticulous plan where he would create fake letters of authenticity to prove their legitimacy. These letters appeared to come from “The Estate of Keith Haring” and the “Authentication Committee of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat,” and featured embossing with the names of their estates and foundation, which were bought and designed by Righter. He also forged the signatures of the representatives for their estates and foundations. 

“Righter also created elaborate backstories to establish the ‘provenance’ of the forged artworks,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “He forged documents to show links between the artworks, Righter’s family, a Wisconsin art museum, and a prominent New York City gallery.”

In 2016, his elaborate hoax worked on a Miami gallery, which was willing to meet his asking price of more than $1 million for the bogus works. He sent several paintings to a warehouse in South Florida where they were seized by agents from the FBI’s Art Crime Team. 

Sidebar: Don’t give CBS any ideas for another FBI spinoff series. 

The FBI soon discovered that his dealings with the Miami gallery was only a small part of a larger counterfeit scheme that totaled $6 million. 

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