LOS ANGELES (CN) – A woman got seven years in prison for selling counterfeit paintings by Picasso, Dali and Chagall through rigged, televised art auctions that netted $20 million from about 10,000 victims.
U.S. District Judge Gary A. Feess called the scheme “audacious in its scope” and “blatantly illegal” before handing down his sentence Monday against Kristine Eubanks, 52.
Officials say that from 2002 to 2006, Fine Art Treasures Gallery falsely told customers that art sold on its television show was acquired at “estate liquidations all over the world.” The auction-television show aired Friday and Saturday nights on DirecTV and The Dish Network.
Eubanks instead sold counterfeits bought from suppliers, and also sold forgeries. In some cases, Eubanks even forged certificates of authenticity, officials said.
Eubanks, of the Los Angeles suburb of La Cañada-Flintridge, also rigged the bidding process by arranging for fake bids to be announced on the program to drive up prices for the art, officials said.
Eubanks pleaded guilty in April 2007 to charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, interstate transportation of stolen property and to filing a false income tax return.
Eubanks’ husband, Gerald Sullivan, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property for his part in the scheme. He is scheduled to be sentenced in May.
Authorities, meanwhile, have seized $3.8 million from the couple’s bank accounts, and are notifying “thousands of potential victims” who might have unknowingly purchased bogus works.