Sunday, June 16, 2024

Mexican politician nabbed in US in multi-million-dollar art fraud

A former mayoral candidate in San Andrés Cholula, Puebla, was arrested Friday in New York for peddling fake modern art, U.S. federal prosecutors said.

Ángel Luis Pereda Eguiluz, 49, is accused of wire fraud in an attempt to earn millions of dollars by pretending works were by modern art icons Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Prosecutors said the Citizens’ Movement candidate in the June 6 elections had “conned art buyers” who he hoped wouldn’t notice the art was forged.

FBI agent Christopher McKeogh, who is investigating the case, said Pereda had tried to sell multiple fake artworks to various auction houses, including a vase and a painting by Haring, a collaborative painting by Basquiat and Haring and a copy of Basquiat’s “Glory Boys Kingdom.”

According to the newspaper Milenio Paredes had lined up a buyer for a supposed Basquiat piece for US $6 million.

The FBI has also tracked transfers of thousands of dollars to Pereda’s Mexican bank accounts, which it alleged are linked to other sales of fake art.

Late last year, at least two auction houses in New York City discovered fake pieces being sold to them. In one case a Haring piece was said to have been owned by the “Pareda Family, Mexico.”

The politician appears to have fallen victim to a sting operation. A person “acting at the direction of the FBI” told Pereda on June 23 that a Basquiat piece was fake but that it would be sold to a potential buyer for US $6 million if Pereda could come up with fake documents showing its provenance, which he did, according to the criminal complaint. “Pereda expected to receive a portion of the revenue of the sale of this fraudulent painting,” read the court filing.

Works by Basquiat and Haring have brought big numbers at auction. In 2017 a Basquiat painting was sold for $110.5 million, a U.S. record at the time.

With reports from Milenio, AP and NBC News

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