(Bloomberg) -- An art dealer in Palm Beach, Florida, has been charged with mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering for allegedly selling forged works from artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Banksy and Roy Lichtenstein to unsuspecting clients.
Daniel Elie Bouaziz, a French citizen born in Algeria, allegedly marketed the works from his Danieli Fine Art and Galerie Danieli galleries located on the city’s prestigious Worth Avenue, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida said Friday in an emailed statement. Some of the fraudulent pieces were inexpensive reproductions that were sold for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars as original works.
Bouaziz is accused of purchasing low-cost reproductions from online auctions and then passing them off as original or authentic. He allegedly deceived victims by falsifying the ownership history of the artwork, and added signatures to make works appear authentic.
“Bouaziz represented to the victims that he was an official appraiser and art expert,” the criminal complaint said, noting an instance when he allegedly sold a $100 Warhol reproduction to a victim who thought it was real for $85,000.
Law enforcement was able to identify victims who unknowingly purchased forged works from Bouaziz, and agents also conducted an undercover purchase of a piece for $25,000. In another instance, agents placed a down payment using Bitcoin on a collection listed at $22 million.
Bouaziz made an initial appearance before a federal magistrate judge in West Palm Beach on Friday, according to the statement. FBI Miami’s West Palm Beach Office and IRS-CI Miami investigated the matter.
Phone calls placed Friday to Danieli Fine Art weren’t immediately answered, and the gallery didn’t responded to an emailed request for comment. The Palm Beach Daily News reported in December that federal agents had raided the galleries.
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