Art Fraudster Inigo Philbrick Gets 7 Year Sentence for $86 Million Scam

  • May 23, 2022 18:18

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Detail of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Humidity (1982). Acrylic, oilstick, and Xerox collage on canvas. Courtesy Phillips.

For bilking partners out of millions of dollars in art deals, Inigo Philbrick, 34, will spend 84 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release.

A judge in New York on Monday handed down the sentence for his elaborate scheme: seven years in prison plus $86 million and restitution of artworks agreed upon in an earlier plea deal.

Philbrick “knowingly misrepresented the ownership of certain artworks, for example, by selling a total of more than 100 percent ownership in an artwork to multiple individuals and entities without their knowledge” and by taking out loans against pieces of art without informing co-owners. He listed a “stolen identity as the seller” on at least one contract.

Philbrick pled guilty to one count of wire fraud last fall, according to a press release. His scams included creating fraudulent contracts and records to show investors, as he operated London and Miami galleries, including misrepresentating sales of artworks such as Yayoi Kusama's “Infinity Room” installation, a 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat titled “Humidity,” a 2010 untitled painting by Christopher Wool, and an untitled 2012 painting by Rudolf Stingel depicting Pablo Picasso, among others.  

His lawyers had argued for a more lenient sentence, citing a difficult childhood marked by his parents' divorce and his own issues with drugs and alcohol. Daily intoxication was “how art deals are done,” said his lawyers.

Judge Sidney Stein was less swayed by the backstory than by Philbrick's cooperation with the government after his capture.

As his cons unraveled, Philbrick was detained by U.S. authorities in summer 2020 on the Pacific island of Vanuatu. He has already spent about 22 months behind bars, and missed the birth of his second child.

“Vanity and greed…. I tried to lead a life that wasn’t true,” Philbrick told the judge was the reason behind his cons. He added that he felt “remorse and sorrow for the damage” he had done.

Read more at Daily Beast

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