Palm Beach art dealer sentenced to over two years in prison for blue-chip art fraud scheme

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A Palm Beach art dealer was sentenced to more than two years in prison this week after pleading guilty to laundering money from the sale of counterfeit works by blue-chip artists including Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Roy Lichtenstein.

Daniel Elie Bouaziz, who owned Danieli Fine Art and Galerie Danieli in Palm Beach County, was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release. Bouaziz was also ordered by Aileen M. Cannon, the US District Judge, to pay a $15,000 fine. Prosecutors dropped 16 other fraud and embezzlement-related charges as part of a plea deal.

Bouaziz pleaded guilty in February and admitted to knowingly engaging in interstate commerce of more than $10,000 from the sale of counterfeit art, which falls under a violation of wire fraud. The Department of Justice said Boaziz purchased reproductions at bargain prices and sold them as originals at a markup, sometimes with fake invoices and provenance documents to fool clients into thinking the works were authentic. Bouaziz’s customers unknowingly purchased the fraudulent work “for tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars”, the DOJ said last October.

Bouaziz sold what he claimed were authentic and original works by Andy Warhol, priced between $75,000 and $240,000, in October 2022. After the customer put down a $200,000 deposit, Bouaziz comingled the money with other funds and wired the money to other accounts. Bouaziz also tried to sell work he claimed were originals by artists like Banksy, Lichtenstein and Basquiat. When Bouaziz was first charged in October, the dealer had a fake Basquiat on sale for $12m at Danieli Fine Art, according to the DOJ.

A restitution hearing for Bouaziz has been set for August 16.

Last year, the FBI raided the Orlando Museum of Art during a Basquiat exhibition and seized 25 allegedly counterfeit paintings attributed to the artist. A Los Angeles-based auctioneer confessed last month that he helped create and market the fake works.

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