NEW YORK (AP) — A Miami pastor was sentenced Monday to six months in jail for peddling bogus examples of some of British artist Damien Hirst's signature paintings.
Kevin Sutherland had faced a possible seven years in prison in the attempted grand larceny case, which accused him of knowingly trying to sell five fake Hirsts for $185,000 to an undercover detective. Sutherland, who plans to appeal, said he was just an art-world tyro who got confusing signals about the pieces' authenticity.
Sutherland, 46, leads the small, nondenominational Mosaic Miami Church in Miami. Defense lawyer Sanford "Sam" Talkin emphasized Sutherland's good works to the judge, and Mosaic Miami members and others wrote letters on his behalf.
Sutherland was convicted last month of agreeing to sell paintings and prints mimicking Hirst's pharmaceutical-themed "spot" paintings and round "spin" paintings, two of the artist's best-known themes.
Part of a group dubbed the Young British Artists in the 1990s, Hirst received Great Britain's prestigious Turner Prize in 1995.
The Manhattan district attorney's office noted that Sotheby's auction house had raised red flags about the authenticity of one of the paintings, but Sutherland nonetheless told the detective he didn't know of any doubts about them.
But Sutherland said the auction house never clearly told him the artworks were counterfeit. He said he believed their authenticity was guaranteed when he bought them from Vincent Lopreto, an admitted California art scammer who testified against him.
Lopreto pleaded guilty this year to identity theft and other charges. Two other men also admitted guilt in phony-Hirst cases brought by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.
"Because the art industry is largely unregulated, it is particularly important to hold accountable those who fraudulently deal artwork," Vance said after Sutherland's conviction.
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