NEW YORK, NY.-
A Florida art dealer who promised bargains on works he claimed were originals by master artists including Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring and Henri Matisse has been sentenced to more than two years in federal prison for running a counterfeit scheme, federal officials said.
The man, Daniel Elie Bouaziz, 69, owned several art galleries in Palm Beach County, Florida, through which he operated the counterfeit scheme. He was sentenced on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Miami to 27 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay a $15,000 fine, court filings show.
Bouaziz pleaded guilty in February to one charge of money laundering on the condition that federal prosecutors drop 16 other counts, according to the documents.
Neither Bouaziz nor his lawyer could immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday evening.
According to prosecutors, Bouaziz, a French and Israeli citizen born in Algeria, was in the United States on a B-2 visitors visa. They said the pieces he had represented as authentic works were cheap reproductions he had bought through online auctions. He was charged in June after an investigation that included the serving of search warrants at his galleries, a review of financial records and undercover purchases of what prosecutors had deemed to be fraudulent art.
According to the federal complaint, Bouaziz conducted his art dealing through three companies: Galerie Danieli, Danieli Fine Art and VIP Rentals LLC. The website for Danieli Fine Art advertises a collection from a wide range of notable artists, including Monet, Rodin, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Willem de Kooning.
But counterfeit Andy Warhols were what sent Bouaziz to prison.
On Oct. 25, 2021, Bouaziz sold what he had claimed were authentic, original Warhol pieces, some of them signed by the artist, to an unwitting customer, federal prosecutors said. The customer gave Bouaziz a $200,000 down payment, which he then wired to other accounts. According to court documents, Bouaziz then took five artworks to the buyers house.
Federal prosecutors did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday evening, but in a sentencing memorandum, they noted that Bouaziz knew some of the pieces he sold were not genuine. In one instance, they added, he sold fraudulent art to an undercover agent for $25,0000.
Bouaziz, they added, had won over many in Palm Beach with his philanthropy, his luxury cars and invitations to lunch and art events. But his generosity, prosecutors said, belied a darker reality. Bouaziz painted a picture of himself that he wanted others to see and believe, they said.
A restitution hearing is scheduled for Aug. 16.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times