Alleged works by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell, were actually painted by the 73-year-old immigrant artist in the garage of his Queens home.
Few details about the investigation are known. What is known is mostly contained in a new grand jury indictment of alleged scam mastermind Glafira Rosales, 57. She was arraigned today (Aug 19) in federal court in Manhattan.
Asst. U.S. Attorney Jason P. Hernandez told Judge Katherine P. Failla today that more arrests were expected. They should yield further details about the inner workings of the scam.
The FBI unraveled the sophisticated fraud over a period of months. Rosales was initially arrested in May.
At the heart of the scam was a humble Chinese immigrant who came to the United States in 1981. He worked as a street artist, selling his own paintings in Lower Manhattan, according to The New York Times. In the early 1990s he was approached by art dealer and Rosales boyfriend, Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz.
Qian never made more than a few thousand dollars for his efforts. Yet his works were masterful enough to fool experts for more than 15 years. Meanwhile, his counterfeit art fetched more than $80 million through private sales and auctions, according to court papers.
Rosales may have had help from so-called “experts” who authenticated the paintings. The galleries that sold the forged works reportedly grossed $48 million in profits through markups, commissions and fees, according to the indictment.
Qian did not copy existing works. Rather he created new paintings “in the style” of the abstract expressionists and used various techniques to age them. Rosales hawked the paintings as mostly undiscovered finds.
She claimed most were owned by a European collector who wanted to remain anonymous. Others were said to have belonged to a Spanish collector, according to the indictment. As always, the proposition turned out to be too good to be true.
Rosales, who lives in Sands Point, on Long Island, pleaded not guilty to charges. Her lawyer, Steven Kartagener, declined to comment.