A Guilford man and former art gallery owner pleaded guilty to mail fraud after reportedly trying to pass off imitation artwork as an original piece in 2012.
The States Attorney's office said this wasn't an isolated incident.
According to the States Attorney’s office, David J. Crespo, 59, an art dealer at Brandon Gallery in Madison, defrauded customers by telling them the art he sold was original work by Pablo Picasso and signed lithographs by Marc Chagall.
Crespo was charged in a 12-count indictment last August and pleaded guilty to count 12, which relates to the fraudulent sale of an imitation lithograph.
According to the court, Chagall is considered to be one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, and his work is very valuable. Crespo sold Chagall reproductions but passed them off to customers as original works created under the watchful eye of Chagall himself.
The charges against Crespo stem from his 2010 meeting with an undercover FBI agent who agreed to buy one of the Chagall imitations for $2,000. Two years later, Crespo shipped the artwork and valued it at $12,750 “for insurance purposes.”
Authorities said the piece was a photo-mechanical reproduction that had been removed from a book. Upon searching Crespo’s gallery, they found packages of Chagall prints and practiced signatures.
Crespo is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 26 and faces up to 20 years in prison. He could also be ordered to pay restitution to the customers he allegedly duped.
He was arrested April 3 and was released on bond.