California man sentenced in $6M modern art fraud scheme

A Southern California man who authorities say tried to sell $6 million worth of phony paintings he claimed were created by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and other modern masters was sentenced Wednesday to five years in federal prison.

Philip Righter, 43, of West Hollywood was sentenced in a federal court in Miami after pleading guilty to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and tax fraud, the U.S. attorney’s office said. Righter was given 60 months in prison in a case that was filed in Los Angeles. The judge also handed down a five-year sentence in a Florida case in which Righter acknowledged trying to sell forgeries to the owner of a Miami art gallery.

Both sentences will be served at the same time. In a plea agreement, Righter acknowledged trying to sell counterfeit art that he claimed was genuine and using some fakes for income tax write-offs or as collateral for loans he never repaid. Richter sold the bogus artworks from 2016 through June of 2018, creating phony documents to back up his claims that they were genuine, prosecutors said.

Some of the documents were stamped with counterfeits of the embossing stamps used by the estates of Basquiat and Keith Haring to authenticate pieces, prosecutors said.

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