Federal prosecutors in New York charged three men in connection with a $33 million fine art scam that spanned more than two decades.
Authorities said that Jesus Angel Bergantinos Diaz, 65, and Jose Carlos Bergantinos Diaz, 58, were arrested in Spain last week and face extradition back to the United States. Investigators said they believe the third man — Pei Shen Qian, 75 — left the country and might be in China.
Jose Carlos, a Sands Point, New York resident, supposedly met Qian on a Manhattan street corner in 1994, at which time Qian was selling paintings on the street. At the behest of both brothers and a third associate, Qian began to create fake artwork in exchange for payments.
Qian would then produce works similar to acclaimed expressionist artists such as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, which would be paired with fake owner histories by the two brothers before selling them to individuals and galleries around the world.
The trio, along with art dealer Glafira Rosales, are thought to have sold $33 million in fake art. Rosales, 57, pleaded guilty to the illegal operation in September.
"Today's charges paint a picture of perpetual lies and greed," wrote Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement late Monday. "With today's indictment, the defendants must now answer for their alleged roles as modern masters of forgery and deceit."
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