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Friday, May 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Pastor Nailed for Trying|to Hawk Bogus Hirsts

MANHATTAN (CN) - A Florida pastor caught hawking five bogus Damian Hirst paintings faces up to seven years in prison after a jury convicted him Tuesday.

Authentic "spin" and "spot" paintings by the British artist go for tens of thousands of dollars.

Prosecutors said Kevin Sutherland tried to sell counterfeit Hirst works with names like "Valium," "Opium" and "LSD" to an undercover officer in January 2013 for $185,000, days after learning from Sotheby's auction house in Manhattan that at least one of them was fake.

Media reports describe Sutherland as the head of the Mosaic Miami Church.

Jurors deliberated for just one day before finding the 46-year-old guilty Tuesday of attempted grand larceny. He faces sentencing next month in New York State Supreme Court.

"New York's culture and identity is significantly shaped by artists, who are an important part of our city's economy," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement. "Because the art industry is largely unregulated, it is particularly important to hold accountable those who fraudulently deal artwork and to preserve the integrity of this market."

Prosecutors said Sutherland first submitted a spin painting to Sotheby's auction house in Manhattan in 2012, claiming that he owned at least one more. Science Ltd., Hirst's studio in London, determined that the painting Sutherland submitted was counterfeit the next year.

Science then contacted the Manhattan DA's office, and an undercover detective with the New York City Police Department emailed Sutherland on Jan. 29, 2013.

Sutherland replied to the detective's inquiry that he had several Hirst spin paintings for sale but would not know until mid March whether he wanted to sell them.

Though Sotheby's notified Sutherland on Jan. 31 that the paintings were forgeries, Sutherland told the undercover officer later that day that he was willing to sell two Hirst spin paintings and three Hirst dot limited edition prints.

Sutherland met with the detective on Feb. 7 and assured him that there was no reason to doubt the authenticity of the artwork. After cash passed hands, Sutherland was arrested.

Science Ltd. later determined that the second spin painting and all three dot prints were counterfeit.

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