Falsifiers parasitized on painters of the middle price category and did not attract attention for a long time.
The FBI has been investigating a complex fraudulent scheme for a long time, and now there are concrete results. Donald Henkel, a 60-year-old artist, is accused of organizing a multi-year conspiracy to falsify paintings and sports souvenirs.
His home in northern Michigan was full of paintings (possibly fakes) and materials for their manufacture. There were so many items that the search lasted two days. No one has been arrested, however.
According to the American press, Henkel has accomplices in at least three other states: Virginia, California, and Florida.
There was an examination which proved that the pigments of one of the controversial paintings did not exist 100 years ago, at the time of its alleged manufacture. It helped to obtain the search warrant.
Henkel and his accomplices mailed the works. That made the crime federal. In total, the FBI warrant lists eight paintings so far:
- five paintings signed by George Ault (1891-1948);
- two by Ralston Crawford (1906-1978);
- one by Gertrude Abercrombie (1909-1977).
In addition, Walt Disney drawings and sports memorabilia associated with American baseball stars are featured in the case.
The objects created by the scammers have fooled some of the leading experts and art dealers in the United States.
- The New York gallery Hirschl & Adler spent about $ 500 thousand on the purchase of works made, as it turned out, at this factory. In 2016, a buyer identified in the case file as Victim 3 paid $ 299,000 at a Chicago-based Hindman auction for the Smith Silo, which was sold as a work by Ralston Crawford.
- In 2016, a buyer identified in the case file as Victim 3 paid $ 299,000 at a Chicago-based Hindman auction for the Smith Silo, which was sold as a work by Ralston Crawford.
- In 2017, another buyer paid $ 200,000 for the Manor, allegedly by George Ault.
- In 2019, the painting Homecoming allegedly by Gertrude Abercrombie was auctioned for $ 93,000.
Counterfeiters specialized in representatives of the American movement Precisionism, a kind of magical realism. The counterfeiters chose artists who, although historically important, attracting the attention of investors, are not hyped names leading to multimillion-dollar deals. Gallery owners and art experts who have examined the fakes note that they are made at a fairly high level.