Tag Archives: Empire Bronze Art Foundry

New accusations versus LIC art fraudster

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Richard Etts

The owner of a Queens foundry, who pleaded guilty early this year to selling a counterfeit sculpture worth $11 million, is allegedly behind another scam, according to a former New York City artist.

Brian Ramnarine, owner of the Empire Bronze Art Foundry in Long Island City, was arrested in 2012 for attempting to sell a sculpture advertised as genuine work by American artist Jasper Johns. In January, he pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud. He also pleaded guilty to falsely representing works from artists Robert Indiana and Saint Clair Cermin while he was out on bail.

Now, artist Richard Etts, a former New York City sculptor who has been living in California for the past 30 years, alleges one of his early pieces has met the same fate.

Etts was contacted by an art collector from Dallas, Texas, requesting authentication on a bronze Etts hand lamp, which the collector had purchased at an estate sale, the artist said. The artist was confused by the call because he says he never made any body sculptures out of bronze. All were made of plaster.

etts 101 hand desk lamp-003

Richard Etts’ original plaster sculpture

“Instead of denying that I made it, I requested photographs of stamps, signatures and dates,” Etts said. “And I was shocked to find that someone had forged my signature and put a different year on it and had the nerve to put their own stamp on it.”

In the photos he received, the sculpture is stamped with “Roman Bronze Works Inc.,” a company Ramnarine worked for before opening up his own foundry.

However at this point there is no direct evidence linking Ramnarine to the hand lamp.

Also, even though the original plaster sculpture was completed in 1972, the date 1983 also appears on the piece.

“What he has done is criminal and I’m getting no compensation for it and I want to prosecute if I can find the right person to handle this,” Etts said. “I want some money out of it and I want him to stop doing this.”

Etts also said he was thrown off by his large signature on the side of the piece.

“I would never deface my artwork with making my name so prominent on a piece of art,” Etts said. “He has made an effort of plagiarizing my signature.”

According to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York’s office, Etts must contact the Victims Witness Line to further investigate this incident.

Ramnarine’s attorney, Troy Smith, declined to comment.

Ramnarine’s sentencing on the earlier case has been adjourned until Sept. 19.



Queens man tries to pawn off $11 million counterfeit sculpture

| aaltman@queenscourier.com


A Queens foundry owner was caught attempting to pass off a counterfeit sculpture as the real deal — for an $11 million profit.

Brian Ramnarine, 58, owner of the Empire Bronze Art Foundry in Long Island City, was arrested for attempting to sell “1989 Bronze Flag” — a sculpture that he falsely advertised as a genuine work by American artist Jasper Johns, originally titled “Flag.”

“While the defendant had possession of the mold for ‘Flag,’ he had no authority to make the bronze casting he attempted to sell as a legitimate Jasper Johns work of art,” said FBI acting assistant director in charge Mary Galligan. “He crafted a convincing sculpture, and he crafted a litany of lies and deceptions to peddle it.”

In 1960, Johns made a wax cast of the original sculpture, called “Flag.” In the 1990s, Johns gave the mold to Ramnarine — who was regarded as highly skilled in casting bronze sculptures — and asked that he create another cast of the piece. Ramnarine made the wax cast and gave it to Johns, but did not return the first “Flag” mold.

During the spring of 2010, Ramnarine allegedly told several members of the art world that he owned the authentic work and even displayed the faux “Flag” at an auction house that specialized in rare art. The crafty crook attempted to sell the sculpture to several art collectors, pricing the wax wannabe at $11 million.

When one collector expressed doubts regarding the authenticity of the sculpture, Ramnarine provided fraudulent documents to convince the skeptical buyer that the work was genuine. Ramnarine allegedly even provided a letter dated August 23, 1989, purportedly from Johns, stating that the sculpture was a gift from the artist himself. Prosecutors said Ramnarine even etched a fake Johns insignia on the work.

In May of 2010, it was discovered that Johns never authorized the production of a mock sculpture nor did he transfer ownership to Ramnarine.

Ramnarine was charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison.