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Art Dealer Pleads Guilty for $80 Million Fraud

MANHATTAN (CN) - An art dealer pleaded guilty Monday to selling galleries $80 million worth of fake paintings she falsely claimed were by famous 20th Century artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell.

Glafira Rosales, 57, of Sands Point, N.Y., pleaded guilty to nine counts, including conspiracy, money laundering and filing false tax returns. She faces 99 years in prison at sentencing on March 18, 2014.

Between 1994 and 2009, Rosales sold more than 60 never-before-exhibited and previously unknown works of art that she claimed were by the famous artists, prosecutors said. She also sold the works to two undisclosed "prominent" Manhattan galleries for $33.2 million. The galleries then sold the works to others for more than $80 million.

"With her guilty plea today, Glafira Rosales acknowledges her role in a sprawling fraud that involved the commission of phony artworks she represented as real, and her efforts to hide the proceeds of this massive scam in foreign bank accounts," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

The paintings were created by an undisclosed street painter from Queens, N.Y., who created them for Rosales and signed the purported artist's name to them, according to the plea. An unidentified co-conspirator also allegedly forged some signatures, and doctored the paintings to give them a false patina.

Prosecutors said Rosales claimed to represent a Swiss client who had inherited the paintings and wanted to sell them. She also allegedly posed as the representative of a Spanish collector. But the Swiss client never existed, and the purported Spanish collector never owned any of the paintings.

Rosales also filed bogus tax returns that failed to show that she kept millions of dollars from the sales, according to the indictment. She was accused of trying to hide the ill-begotten profits in foreign accounts.

In addition to forfeiting $33.2 million and her home in Sands Point, N.Y., Rosales will pay $81 million in restitution.

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