Billionaire Nailed for Copying Artist's Work
LOS ANGELES (CN) - Billionaire real estate mogul Igor Olenicoff and his company must cough up $450,000 for copying an artist's sculptures to beautify his developments, a federal jury found.
Donald Wakefield filed a copyright infringement complaint against the 71-year-old Olenicoff and his company, Olen Properties Corp., in late 2012. Wakefield accused the billionaire - whose net worth is estimated by Forbes at $3.2 billion - of knocking off at least six of the artist's original stone and metal sculptures.
Wakefield said he discovered some of the copies at several Olen properties in Southern California six years after soliciting developers' business and sending photographs of his work.
A federal jury found both Olenicoff and his company liable for copyright infringement Thursday, saying they directly and intentionally ordered and supervised the creation of the Wakefield knockoffs.
Jurors also bought Wakefield's delayed-discovery argument, finding that he couldn't have known about the copies prior to Nov. 30, 2009. They priced Wakefield's damages at $450,000.
A second artist, John Raimondi, accused Olenicoff of commissioning sculptures and backing out of the deal to have knockoffs made in China instead. That trial begins June 24.
In 2007, Olenicoff pleaded guilty to stashing more than $350 million in European bank accounts. He paid $52 million in back taxes and was sentenced to two years' probation and 120 hours of community service.