Man admits stealing Andy Warhol paintings and attempting to sell fake versions on eBay

Brian Walshe took $80,000 for counterfeit versions of artist’s Shadow paintings

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Saturday 03 April 2021 15:09 BST
The American artist and filmmaker Andy Warhol with his paintings(1928 - 1987), December 15, 1980
The American artist and filmmaker Andy Warhol with his paintings(1928 - 1987), December 15, 1980 (Photo by Susan Greenwood / Liaison Agency)
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A Boston man has pleaded guilty to stealing Andy Warhol paintings from a friend then selling fake versions to a collector on eBay.

Brian Walshe 46, took $80,000 from the collector for two counterfeit versions of the artist’s Shadows series of works from 1978.

Walshe originally put them on eBay in 2016 for $100,000 after claiming that the purchase price of the artworks was $240,000.

Buyer Ron Rivlin, who owns a Los Angeles gallery, agreed to a deal for the paintings with a signed agreement that they could get a full refund within three days of purchase.

Authorities say the buyer’s assistant flew to Boston to collect the art and a day later Walshe paid it into his account.

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“According to bank records, the cashier’s check was deposited that day into an account that Walshe controlled, and $33,400 was subsequently withdrawn in the following 14 days,” said acting United States Attorney Nathaniel Mendell.

But a day after the purchase the new owner realised that something was wrong with the paintings.

“The buyer removed the paintings’ frames and found no Warhol Foundation authentication stamps and noticed that the canvasses and staples looked new,” said prosecutors.

“When he compared the paintings to the photographs from the eBay listing, they did not look identical. The buyer concluded that the paintings he purchased from Walshe were not authentic.”

Investigators say that Walshe, who had previously tried to sell the paintings to a New York City gallery in 2011, then made excuses to delay refunding the money.

Prosecutors say that Walshe got the paintings from a former college classmate in South Korea who agreed he could take the collection, which included the Warhol works, back to the US for sale.

But Walshe, who was arrested for the alleged scam in 2018, disappeared with the collection, until a mutual friend managed to track him down and get some of the artworks back.

Walshe pleaded guilty to wire fraud, interstate transportation for a scheme to defraud, possession of converted goods and unlawful monetary transaction.

He will be sentenced in August and the wire fraud charges carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years and a fine of $250,000.

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