Tag Archives: Jasper Johns

Queens man accused of selling fake $11M sculpture pleads guilty to wire fraud


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File Photo

The Queens foundry owner caught attempting to sell a counterfeit Jasper Johns sculpture for $11 million in 2012 has plead guilty.

Brian Ramnarine, 58, owner of the Empire Bronze Art Foundry in Long Island City, was arrested in November 2012 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.”

On Monday, the fifth day of his jury trial in Manhattan Federal Court, Ramnarine plead guilty for three counts of wire fraud.

“Brian Ramnarine is a serial fraudster who attempted to peddle not one but multiple fake sculptures in three separate fraud schemes – the last two of which occurred after he had already been arrested and was facing charges for the first,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “Ramnarine now stands convicted and, with his admission of guilt, will pay for his fraud.”

For his first count of wire fraud, evidence showed that in 1990 Johns gave the mold to Ramnarine and asked that he create a wax cast of the piece. Ramnarine made the cast and gave it to Johns, but did not return the first “Flag” mold.
Ramnarine allegedly told several members of the art world in 2010 that he owned the authentic work and even displayed the counterfeit “Flag” at an auction house that specialized in rare art. He then attempted to sell the sculpture for $11 million to several art collectors.

When one collector expressed doubts regarding the authenticity of the sculpture, Ramnarine provided fraudulent documents to show 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.

In May of 2010, it was discovered that Johns never authorized the production of a mock sculpture nor did he transfer ownership to Ramnarine. He even forged Johns’ signature on the back of the piece.

Ramnarine is also pleading guilty to two additional counts of wire fraud for his sales of bronze sculptures he falsely represented to be works from artists Robert Indiana and Saint Clair Cermin. The two schemes took place while Ramnarine was out on bail.

If convicted, Ramnarine faces a total of 80 years in jail, 20 years for the first count of wire fraud, and 30 years each for the other two counts.

Ramnarine’s sentencing is scheduled for May 30.

 

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Queens man tries to pawn off $11 million counterfeit sculpture


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

PHOTO COURTESY OF MANHATTAN U.S. ATTORNEYS OFFICE

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.