FBI Expert

Art Dealer Admits $80M Fraud in FBI Investigation

New York, NY

GLAFIRA ROSALES, age 57, residence Sands Point, New York pled guilty today in Manhattan federal court to participating in scheme to sell more than 60 fake pieces of modern art to unsuspecting collectors and two New York art galleries stealing more than $80 million said the FBI.  Appearing before U.S. District Court Judge KATHERINE P. FAILLA, she pled guilty to conspiracy to sell the fake art, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and tax violations and admitted to using foreign bank accounts in an effort to conceal money from the IRS.

Beginning in 1994 and continuing through 2009, the FBI said ROSALES sold more than 60 never before-exhibited and previously unknown paintings by 20th century artists JACKSON POLLOCK, MARK ROTHKO and ROBERT MOTHERWELL.  Investigators said the art was initially sold to two prominent Manhattan galleries for approximately $33.2 million and then resold for more than $80 million.  The phony paintings were created by a local Queens’ artist trained in a New York school who met ROSALES selling street art sometime in the 1980s.  First conceiving the scheme with another companion, ROSALES later gained the cooperation of the painter who in some instances also fraudulently affixed the artist’s name on a work, e.g. JACKSON POLLOCK, but on other occasions authorities said ROSALES’ companion applied a false signature.  And in an effort to create an air of authenticity also applied aging treatments to the paintings giving them a false patina.

Selling the paintings, ROSALES made up several stories claiming the works were owned by clients or collectors in Switzerland and Spain and said she was being paid a commission to handle the sales when, in fact, the client or collector either didn’t exist or own any of the works–keeping the ill-gotten gains which she deposited in several overseas bank accounts wanting to conceal the money from the IRS.  Because documents did not indicate the identities of ROSALES’ companion or the painter, court experts reasoned the FBI probably used a confidential human source sometimes called a cooperating witness and/or a confidential informant to develop the case and prosecute ROSALES so nobody was listed or named.

Admitting to the scheme, investigators said ROSALES pled guilty to nine felonies, including one count conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count wire fraud, one count conspiracy to commit money laundering, one count money laundering, three counts filing false income tax return, and two counts failure to file report of foreign bank account and agreed to forfeiture totaling $32.2 million, including her home and pay restitution not to exceed $81 million.