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Investor Claims $3 Million Art Fraud

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A man claims in court that he was defrauded of nearly $3 million in "interlocking fraudulent schemes" in forged art: fakes attributed to Jackson Pollock and others.

Anders Karlsson sued three dealerships and five people in Federal Court.

Named as defendants are Art Possible LLC, Art Force LLC, Raven Art Inc., John Leo Mangan III, Michael William Force, Taryn Burns, Jovian "John" Re, and Leslie James.

Karlsson, who purchases and sells boutique minerals, fossils, gems and natural history items, sold his interest in one of his companies, giving him a "substantial infusion of investment capital," he says in the complaint.

Defendant Leslie James, a friend and business associate of Karlsson's for 19 years, solicited him to invest in purchase and restoration of previously unknown works by renowned artists to be used for publication in James' planned book of his personal art collection, the complaint states.

James collects artworks "for the purpose of self-publication of an art compendium designed to create or enhance his standing as an expert collector and dealer in artworks, in general, and in Picasso, in particular," according to the complaint.

But Karlsson claims that James has included copies of artwork in his publication that he presents as authentic pieces from renowned artists, but which he knows to be fakes or forgeries.

Karlsson claims that James also knew that Art Force and its associates traffic in pieces of art that are not authentic and that Karlsson was being induced to purchase fake or forged artworks. Karlsson was told that the authenticity and validity of the pieces of artwork was assured, the complaint states.

Karlsson claims he was induced into paying defendant Re $793,000 for 21 pieces of art, three of which were ostensible Jackson Pollock paintings that turned out to be fakes. At least one other piece - a supposed Max Ernst sculpture - was also deemed fake, the complaint states.

Karlsson claims he was told the Pollock paintings were worth $15 million to $25 million each and the Ernst sculpture was worth $600,000 to $750,000.

Karlsson says he has had varying degrees of success in attempting to authenticate the rest of the pieces by independent means, and some of them appear to be fake.

He claims the fakes have placed a cloud on the other pieces, especially since he has been unable to authenticate many of them.

Karlsson also paid Art Force $695,000 toward 13 pieces of artwork, including $25,000 for a John Fernely, Sr. oil on canvas that Art Force knew to be fake but represented as worth up to $150,000, the complaint states.

Additionally, Karlsson says, he entered into a joint venture with Raven Art under which Karlsson invested $1 million in an ostensible Jackson Pollock painting called "Lucifer II." Under the joint venture agreement, the painting could not be sold for less than $30 million without Karlsson's written consent, and Karlsson was entitled to the first $1 million of any sale price, plus 23.5 percent of the remainder, the complaint states.

Since making the purchase, Raven Art has breached the joint venture agreement by moving the artwork without Karlsson's consent, paying defendants John Mangan III and Michael Force six-figure finders' fees out of Karlsson's capital contribution, and using Karlsson's money for uses not related to the painting, according to the complaint.

Karlsson says he spent at least $2.82 million on artwork that mostly turned out to be forged or fake.

He seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

He is represented by Meir J. Westreich.

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