A couple walked into a Florida art gallery and spent a mere $125,000 on what they thought were two pieces by Andy Warhol: "And I Love You So" and "Converse Sneakers in Conversation." The problem was, according to Federal Prosecutors, they were fakes: the first was actually hanging in a Pittsburgh museum and the second wasn't even painted by Warhol.
And, according to The Washington Post, Daniel Elie Bouaziz — owner of Danieli Fine Art gallery in Palm Beach — duped other customers as well. One art collector forked over more than $290,000, thinking they were scoring works by Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein and Henri Matisse. The collector referred to the purchase as the "Holy Grail" — until another gallery owner looked at the pieces and said they looked "off," one being too small and the other looking like an eBay item.
From The Washington Post:
Danieli Fine Art's website says the gallery features a wide range of work by famous artists, including Banksy, Warhol, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. But some people who walked into the gallery were suspicious, according to the affidavit, telling the FBI that some of the artwork Bouaziz was marketing was unbelievable. If the Banksy works were real, one witness said, they would be valued at millions of dollars.
But Bouaziz was selling art for far below the million-dollar mark, prosecutors say, and art enthusiasts were lured by what they thought were low prices. In fact, Bouaziz bought the works for a fraction of what he sold them for, according to the affidavit.
The FBI also bought artwork from Bouaziz in an undercover operation, making a deal for works by artists including Basquiat, Banksy, Haring and Georgia O'Keeffe, according to the affidavit. Of a Warhol "Superman," Bouaziz said there was "no other" and boasted that he was selling it at a "fantastic price."
And when trying to sell a painting of a blue dog by George Rodrigue for as low as $48,000, Bouaziz allegedly told the undercover agent: "There, you are going to make money. I'm saying the honest thing."
Bouzaia has been charged with fraud and money laundering.