California man gets 5 years in prison for art fraud scheme

MIAMI (AP) — A California man was sentenced Wednesday to five years in federal prison for trying to sell forged art to a South Florida gallery.

A federal judge in Miami sentenced Philip Righter, 43, who pleaded guilty in March to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to court records.

Righter’s scheme involved buying forgeries of artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, investigators said. He made the forgeries appear legitimate by creating letters that falsely certified their authenticity and elaborate backstories to establish their provenance and then offered them to galleries, auction houses and others.

In the South Florida case, Righter sent several forgeries from Los Angeles to a Miami gallery. He was asking more than $1 million for the forgeries, which were seized by the FBI. In total, Righter’s scheme attempted to scam victims out of more than $6 million and caused losses of more than $750,000.

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Righter pleaded guilty Wednesday to additional counts of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and tax fraud for a Los Angeles case. He received an additional five years for that case, but the two sentences will run concurrently. The tax fraud totaled more than $100,000.

A consolidated restitution hearing is set for Sept. 30.

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