British art dealer Robert Newland pleads guilty to conspiring with Inigo Philbrick to defraud collectors and financiers

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The British art dealer Robert Newland, who served as a business partner and financial advisor to Inigo Philbrick, pled guilty before a United States District Court judge last week to one count of conspiracy to commit wire-fraud for his part in Philbrick’s years-long effort to enrich himself while defrauding collectors and financial institutions to the tune of $86m.

In February, Newland, who at the time was a sales director for the Miami-based art and tech house Superblue, was indicted by New York’s Southern District Court and arrested that same month in the UK, his home country. According to The Times, he was released on £250,000 bail and was forced to abide by an evening curfew and electronic monitoring. “I’ve got no statement. It’s all being worked out at the moment. It’s being taken care of,” Newland told The Times after his arrest. However, on 22 September he was extradited to the US where he pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in front of US District Court Judge Sidney Stein, the same judge who sentenced Philbrick to seven years in prison for his three-year “Ponzi-like” swindle for which he was dubbed the art market’s “mini-Madoff”.

Philbrick and Newland met in 2010 when the former was an intern at London’s White Cube gallery. At the time Newland worked in the gallery’s finance department. In 2013 White Cube’s owner, Jay Jopling, helped Philbrick launch his secondary sales business Modern Collections (MC), catapulting him into the upper echelon of the art market. By 2014, Newland had become MC’s director, a position he held until he resigned at the end of 2016. Newland later worked with the mega gallery Hauser & Wirth, from November 2018 through November 2019, a few months after the allegations against Philbrick began to make the rounds.

In 2020 a New York grand jury indicted Philbrick, who was arrested while in hiding on the Pacific island of Vanuatu, on federal charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. In November 2021 Philbrick pled guilty to one count of wire fraud, and admitted that he defrauded collectors, investors and financial institutions, often by selling more than 100% of shares in an artwork and forging consignment documents. When the judge asked why he committed these crimes, Philbrick said, “for the money, your honour.”

According to the US Department of Justice, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a maximum prison term of 20 years, but the sentence will ultimately be decided by a judge.

As part of a plea deal with the US government, Newland agreed to forfeit $76,000, which represents his proceeds in the wire fraud. Judge Stein granted Newland bail on the condition of a $400,000 personal recognisance bond on 23 September, after which he was allowed to return to the UK, at which point his passport must be returned to his attorney, Robert Burlingame, and his travel restricted to the UK and the Southern and Eastern districts of New York.

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