Brian Walshe, 46 (pictured), pleaded guilty on Friday to four counts including wire fraud and interstate transportation for a scheme to defraud, and faces up to 50 years in prison
A Boston man orchestrated an international art swindle, in which he took two Andy Warhol paintings from a friend and sold them on eBay – only to switch them out for fakes.
Brian Walshe, 46, pleaded guilty on Friday to one count each of wire fraud, interstate transportation for a scheme to defraud, possession of converted goods and unlawful monetary transaction, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.
In November 2016, an eBay user – Ron Rivlin, the owner of Revolver Gallery in Los Angeles – found Walshe selling two Andy Warhol paintings for $100,000 each, reported the Boston Herald.
Rivlin claims that his gallery is the the world’s largest gallery-owned Andy Warhol collection.
The paintings Riviln saw on eBay were from Warhol’s Shadows series, abstract paintings the pop artist created in 1978.
On the listing, Walshe also included a photo of an invoice from the Warhol Foundation, where he claimed he bought the paintings, and which allegedly showed he paid $240,000 for them.
Walshe allegedly told Rivlin he was selling the works at a great loss in order to pay for home renovations, reported the Herald.
Rivlin believed they were authentic and contacted Walshe in early November, arranging to purchase both paintings outside of eBay for $80,000.
In November 2016, Walshe put the paintings up on eBay for $100,000 each, after which art gallery owner Ron Rivlin (pictured) agreed to buy them for $80,000
The pair signed a contract, which explicitly stated that Rivlin had three days to get a full refund, according to the Massachusetts DA’s office.
On November 7, Rivlin’s assistant flew to Boston to collect the paintings and gave Walshe an $80,000 cashier’s check, which was deposited that day.
The next day, Rivlin unwrapped the paintings and found there were no authentication stamps on the back from the Warhol Foundation and that the canvasses looked new.
Next, he compared the paintings to the photographs on eBay and determined they were different.
Walshe got the paintings from his friend, who had recently bought them, and corniced him that he could sell them for a good price – but then he disappeared and his friend never received any money in return for them. Pictured: One of the fame Warhol paintings
After buying the paintings, Rivlin realized the artworks he purchased were fakes, When Walshe wouldn’t return all the money, Rivlin called the FBI. Pictured: One of the fake Andy Warhol paintings
After concluding the paintings in his possession were inauthentic, he made repeated attempts to contact Walshe.
The Herald reported that phone records show Rivlin called and texted Walshe from November 8 to 12, all of which went unanswered.
According to the DA’s office, when Walshe did reply, he made several excuses for not refunding the money immediately.
After Walshe refunded Rivlin just $30,000 of the $80,000, the gallery owner said he had he had contacted the FBI, according to the Herald.
Prosecutors say Walshe got hold of the paintings while visiting his friend in South Korea and convinced the man he could sell several pieces of art, including the works by Warhol, for a good price.
The victim agreed but then Walshe disappeared and the friend was unable to contact him. Eventually, a mutual friend retrieved some of the art.
The DA’s Office also says Walshe tried to sell the Warhol paintings to a gallery in New York City, which declined because Walshe did not have a bill of sale.
In May 2018, Walshe was arrested and charged.
His sentencing is scheduled for August 2, and he faces up to 50 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.