An art dealer in Madison, Connecticut, made his clients sort of happy and himself very happy by selling works of art by Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall for large amounts of money. The problem was that the items were not the originals he said they were.
The dealer sold reproductions of Chagall lithographs and touted them as signed originals produced through an artistic method of lithography under the direction and authority of the artist himself.
In addition, the 60-year-old dealer forged numerous documents supposedly lending authentication or provenance to the fake works.
Met with undercover agent
In January 2010, the dealer met with an undercover FBI agent at the Brandon Gallery in Madison. In a recorded conversation, the two discussed a lithograph titled “The Presentation of Chloe,” which the dealer said was an “original lithograph” that was part of a limited edition collection made from “stone plates” from which multiple impressions were made.
The agent agreed to purchase the purported lithograph for $2,000.
In May 2010, the dealer shipped the piece along with a “Certificate of Authenticity,” which valued the piece at $12,750 “for insurance purposes” and stated that the piece was “hand signed by Chagall in crayon after the artist personally examined this particular example.”
In fact, the purported Chagall lithograph was not a limited edition original lithograph manufactured under the artist’s direction using stone plates, but was a photo-mechanical production that was removed from a common edition book.
Search of the art gallery
Authorities also conducted a search of the Brandon Gallery and found packages of Chagall prints and practiced Chagall signatures. The investigation revealed that the dealer defrauded at least 10 victims out of a total of at least $400,000.
In April 2012, David J. Crespo was arrested on a criminal complaint. In September 2013, he pleaded guilty to mail fraud stemming from the sale of an imitation Marc Chagall lithograph.
He has been detained since December 31, 2014, when he was found to have violated the conditions of his release and his bond was revoked.
In January 2015, a judge sentenced Crespo to 57 months in prison for selling fraudulent artwork.