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New York art dealer avoids prison for $80 million counterfeit scheme

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York art dealer avoided prison for her role in a scheme that led two Manhattan galleries to buy dozens of fake paintings that they then sold for $80 million, after a federal judge ruled on Tuesday she was coerced by her abusive ex-boyfriend.

Glafira Rosales, 60, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla in Manhattan to nine months of home detention after pleading guilty in 2013 to charges that included conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.

Failla, who said the sentence would be served as part of the Long Island resident's three years of supervised release, cited defense arguments that Rosales' conduct stemmed from abuse she suffered at the hands of her boyfriend, the scheme's mastermind.

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"I do believe that you did a lot of what you did because of concern for your daughter being harmed or taken away from you," Failla said.

Rosales, who served three months in prison following her initial arrest, cried in court, saying she was "truly, truly sorry for what I have done."

Rosales is the only one of four defendants in the case to be sentenced over a scheme to sell over 60 fake paintings promoted as works by artists including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning to the two galleries for $33.2 million.

Around 40 counterfeits were sold to Knoedler & Co, which before closing in 2011 was New York City's oldest art gallery, while the rest were sold to Manhattan art dealer Julian Weissman.

Prosecutors said the paintings were created by a Chinese artist, Pei-Shen Qian, who after meeting Rosales' former boyfriend, Jose Carlos Bergantinos Diaz, at his behest began creating fakes that Diaz sold to several galleries.

Rosales' lawyers said she became the scheme's face after people began questioning the authenticity of art sold by Diaz. Prosecutors said in selling the paintings, she claimed to represent a Swiss client or a Spanish art collector.

In court papers, Rosales' lawyers said on many occasions, she told Diaz she no longer wanted to sell the counterfeits, only to be threatened.

Diaz and his brother, Jesus Angel Bergantinos Diaz, were indicted along with Qian in 2014 connection with the scheme after Rosales began cooperating with authorities.

The Diaz brothers were arrested in Spain in 2014, but the U.S. government's extradition requests were denied. Qian is considered a fugitive and is believed to be in China.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)

 
 
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