CHICAGO (CN) – A downtown art gallery duped collectors for half a million dollars for counterfeit prints they attributed to Salvador Dali, Picasso, Chagall, Warhol and other artists, federal prosecutors say. Some of the scam was run out of the Kass-Meridian Gallery dba Allegro Art, on Huron Street, according to the 12-count indictment.
A grand jury charged Alan Kass, Sawyer K. Cade aka Alexander E. Swing aka Xander Swing and John Panos with the criminal charges.
Kass is president of Kass-Meridian Gallery dba Allegro Art, of 325 W. Huron St., Suite 315.
Cade worked for the gallery and maintained two websites for it, and sold art through the site and on eBay, prosecutors say.
Panos, of New York and Florida, was a principal in Equity Art Brokers and Prestige Art, which are not parties to this complaint.
They are three 12 defendants recently indicted in Chicago, accused of selling more than $5 million in fake art, according to the Department of Justice.
From 1991 to January 2008, Kass knowingly acquired from “various sources,” including Panos, “counterfeit and unauthorized prints and other artworks of well-known artists, including among others, Alexander Calder, Salvador Dali, Marc Chagall, Roy Lichtenstein, Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso, Marino Marini, Keith Haring, and Andy Warhol, in order to distribute and sell them as original limited edition fine art prints and other original works of art,” according to the indictment.
The pieces “bore forged signatures and/or false numerical or other markings making them appear as if they had been part of an original limited edition or had been prepared for the artist’s own use,” prosecutors say.
Panos forged some of the signatures himself, and he and Kass falsely numbered them, according to the indictment.
Even after eBay removed some listings because the art was deemed counterfeit, Kass had Cade relist the items “and to attempt to sell them by means,” prosecutors say.
Kass and Cade also “created and provided to some customers ‘certificates of authenticity’ signed by defendant Kass, which they knew contained false representations about the artist, year of publication and number in the edition of the counterfeit and unauthorized prints defendants Kass and Cade were selling,” according to the indictment.
Kass ultimately sold hundreds of fake works throughout the United States, making more than $480,000 from his victims, prosecutors say.
Kass, 73, is charged with 13 counts of mail and wire fraud.
Cade, 47, is charged with four counts or mail and wire fraud.
Panos, 64, is charged with one count of mail fraud.
If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 for each count.
Prosecutors also seek forfeit of their ill-gotten gains.