MANHATTAN (CN) - A Queens foundry owner tried to sell an unauthorized copy of Jasper John's "Flag" sculpture for $11 million, federal prosecutors say.
The United States charged Brian Ramnarine with wire fraud.
Ramnarine, 58, owns the Empire Bronze Art Foundry, in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens.
Prosecutors claim Johns gave Ramnarine a mold of sculpture of a U.S. flag that the artist created in 1960. Ramnarine was to make a wax cast.
"Although Ramnarine completed the wax cast and provided it to Johns, Ramnarine never returned to Johns the flag mold from which the wax cast was made," the indictment states.
"At no time did Johns or any of his agents authorize Ramnarine or Empire Bronze to manufacture a sculpture from either the flag mold or the wax cast of the 1960 Flag."
In March 2010, Ramnarine's agent allegedly contacted an unidentified public auction house specializing in rare art, which operates in Manhattan and London.
A representative of the auction house met with Ramnarine at Empire Bronze Art Foundry a month later, according to the indictment.
Around this time, several of Ramnarine's art brokers allegedly met with an unnamed art collector the Western United States to discuss the sale of Johns's 1989 "Bronze Flag."
"Through an art broker, Ramnarine informed the art collector's representatives that Ramnarine would sell the purported 1989 Bronze Flag for approximately $11,000,000," the indictment states.
When the collector asked about its provenance, Ramnarine replied that the 1989 work was a gift from Johns, prosecutors say.
The collector is believed to have visited Ramnarine in May 2010 to view the work at an art storage facility in New York.
"During this meeting, Ramnarine showed the representative the 1989 Bronze Sculpture and documents purporting to demonstrate the sculpture's authenticity and Ramnarine's rightful ownership of the sculpture," the indictment states.
Ramnarine allegedly gave the sculpture a false date, forged Johns's signature on the back of it and created fraudulent documents to trick potential buyers.
If convicted of wire fraud, Ramnarine faces up to 20 years in prison.
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