Foundry owner get 2½ years for art scam

AP News
Posted: Oct 16, 2014 3:26 PM
Foundry owner get 2½ years for art scam

NEW YORK (AP) — A former New York foundry owner was sentenced to 2½ years in prison Thursday for trying to sell knockoff sculptures that he passed off as the multimillion-dollar work of Jasper Johns and other artists.

"Love it!" Brian Ramnarine said after U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl imposed a sentence far lighter than the eight to 10 years called for in the plea agreement with prosecutors. The judge also ordered him to forfeit $34,250 and pay an equal amount in restitution to a gallery that got cheated.

Ramnarine, 60, of Queens, interrupted his January trial by pleading guilty to fraud charges, admitting he cast sculptures that he falsely claimed were the work of Johns, Robert Indiana and Saint Clair Cemin.

Ramnarine, whose skills with liquid metal made him a favorite of artists in the 1980s and early 1990s, had done work for Johns in the past, including casting a sculpture of Johns' classic 1960 "Flag" painting. Prosecutors said Ramnarine kept the mold and used it to turn out unauthorized copies, forging Johns' signature on the backs.

He got caught after he put out word that he had an $11 million bronze "Flag" sculpture to sell and an art collector expressed doubts about the authenticity of the work.

Johns, 84, testified at the trial that the sculptures were fakes that lacked the finishing touches he puts on his works after they are cast.

Given a chance to speak before sentencing, Ramnarine said he was sorry.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Ramnarine's "only art was as a con artist."