NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut art dealer convicted in the sale of fraudulent artwork was sentenced Friday to four years and nine months in prison.
David Crespo, of Guilford, was accused of forging documents to falsely represent that the pieces he sold were authentic works of art by Pablo Picasso and original signed lithographs by Marc Chagall. Federal prosecutors said he defrauded 10 people out of a total of at least $400,000.
Crespo, 60, was arrested after selling a fake lithograph to an undercover FBI agent at his Brandon Gallery in Madison.
Crespo pleaded guilty in September 2013 to one count of mail fraud. He nevertheless denied many of the government's allegations, saying if the art he sold was fake, he did not know it.
In federal court in New Haven, Crespo was sentenced to three years of supervised released in addition to his time in prison.
Original lithographs are authorized reproductions that have been created using a distinctive printing process. Authorities say that in January 2010, Crespo and the undercover agent discussed a lithograph known as "The Presentation of Chloe," which Crespo represented as an original that was part of a limited edition collection. The agent agreed to purchase the purported lithograph for $2,000.
In May 2012, Crespo shipped the item along with a "certificate of authenticity," which valued the piece at $12,750 "for insurance purposes," prosecutors said. It also stated that the piece was "hand signed by Chagall in crayon after the artist personally examined this particular example" and represented that it came from the collection of a longtime friend of the artist, prosecutors said.
But the friend did not exist and Crespo knew that the piece was a photo-mechanical production that was removed from a common edition book, authorities said.
The FBI searched Crespo's gallery in November 2012 and found packages of Chagall prints and apparent attempts at Chagall signatures, prosecutors said.
The original indictment included 12 counts and alleged that Crespo defrauded his customers by falsely representing that artwork he sold were original Chagall lithographs and Picasso pieces.