An eBay customer was perusing the online marketplace in early November 2016 and came across two Andy Warhol paintings for sale.
Both pieces were from the famous American artist’s “Shadows,” a series of untitled abstract canvas paintings from 1978 — but what the buyer didn’t know was that the paintings they received would turn out to be fake.
Lynn resident Brian Walshe, 46, pleaded guilty Thursday in connection with taking the two authentic Warhol pieces from a friend, then offering them on eBay before delivering fake copies to the customer, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Lynn man pleads guilty in connection with taking and attempting to sell two Warhol paintings on eBay. https://t.co/kZPQlOvTDG
— U.S. Attorney MA (@DMAnews1) April 1, 2021
Prosecutors said Walshe initially gained access to the paintings when visiting a friend in South Korea. He reportedly claimed he could sell Warhol’s artwork for a good price, and the friend agreed to let Walshe take the two Shadow paintings along with other fine art pieces.
After Walshe took the art, according to authorities, his friend was unable to contact him again. Come May 3, 2011, Walshe reportedly tried consigning the Warhol pieces to a gallery in New York City, though the location wouldn’t accept the paintings without a bill of sale.
The two Warhol pieces were originally listed at $100,000, and authorities said that in Walshe’s online advertisement, he attached a picture of an invoice for the two pieces with numbers from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts on them, as well as a $240,000 price tag.
Believing the artwork to be authentic, an eBay customer arranged with Walshe to purchase the paintings outside of the online platform for $80,000. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the pair then signed a contract that specified the buyer had three days to be able to get a full refund.
On Nov. 7 that year, the buyer’s assistant flew to Boston and gave Walshe an $80,000 cashier’s check in exchange for the paintings. Walshe deposited the money into his account that day, according to bank records, and withdrew $33,400 in the 14 days that followed.
Yet authorities said that by Nov. 8 the buyer had removed the paintings from their frames, discovering there were no Warhol Foundation authentication stamps, and noticing that the canvases and staples looked brand new.
“When he compared the paintings to the photographs from the eBay listing, they did not look identical,” prosecutors wrote in the release.
The buyer decided the paintings Walshe sold him weren’t authentic and repeatedly tried to connect with him again. Walshe didn’t initially respond, authorities said, and afterward he made excuses for the delay in refunding the money.
Walshe was initially arrested and charged in May 2018, and now faces one count of wire fraud, interstate transportation for a scheme to defraud, possession of converted goods, and unlawful monetary transaction.
He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 2, 2021.
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