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What Is Art Forgery? Is Art Forgery Illegal in Massachusetts?

Art Forgery is a white collar crime that is on the rise. Art is a multi-billion dollar market and selling an imitation of an artwork can be very lucrative. Art forgery is often a felony or even a federal crime due to the interstate nature of the art business. If you are charged with art forgery or any fraud related to art crime you need to hire an experienced attorney well versed in the law surrounding art forgery as soon as possible.

Is Art Forgery Illegal? Is Illegal in Massachusetts? Is it Always a Crime?

One surprising fact about art forgery is that in the US, imitating an art-work or in some cases even selling the imitation of an art-work is not a crime in itself. It is legal to imitate an art-work, down to imitating the artist’s signature, without being charged with a crime.

For example, imitations of valuable works of art are often sold on e-bay “in the style of” an artist, which isn’t a crime unless there was intent to deceive. In the art world it is well known that “buyer beware” is advice to be taken seriously.

Art forgery becomes a crime when the forgery is passed off as an original when a seller claims the work is original and/or provides a false provenance for a work of art. This could include fabricating a fraudulent history of origin for the work of art. It could also involve forging a false certificate of authenticity or other documents “proving” the authenticity of the original.

Who Can be Charged with Art Forgery?

Since imitations and fake works of art are not inherently illegal, many works of art can circulate in the marketplace even after they are found to be fake, or they can circulate for years without proof of their inauthenticity. This leaves many resellers vulnerable to accusations of forgery and fraud, even if there was no intent to defraud.

Art forgery can be convicted when the prosecution can prove misrepresentation or falsification of the origin of the artwork with intent to deceive. This can also include altering or fabricating documents with “legal significance” in connection to the artwork such as certificates of authenticity.

Art forgery has been in the news most recently in connection with the case of Brian Walshe who was charged with misleading a police investigation into the disappearance of his wife, Ana Walshe. The public learned that Brian Walshe was in home confinement awaiting a federal trial for selling fake Warhol paintings to a West Coast collector.

The increasing public awareness and interest in art crimes reflects the fact that art forgery and art crimes are considered serious white collar crimes by prosecutors and law enforcement on the alert for online art transactions that take place in a global marketplace.

If you are charged with art forgery in Massachusetts you could spend up to 10 years in state prison. Art forgery may be charged along with other serious crimes, such as federal crimes like wire fraud. A conviction for art forgery may also carry hefty fines and restitution to the injured party. Art forgery is not a charge that you should try to fight without the assistance of a highly experienced criminal defense attorney who specializes in art crimes.

At Dhar Law, LLP, our attorneys are tough, dedicated defense attorneys who have defended many instances of forgery and other white collar crimes. Our attorneys have defended decades worth of white collar cases in state and federal courts. There are many robust defenses against an accusation of art forgery. Please contact our law firm as soon as you learn that you are being investigated or if you are accused of art forgery so we can get to work on your case and fight for your rights.


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Heading up the firm, Vikas Dhar is widely recognized as a leader in the New England legal community. An accomplished business litigator and a “Top 40 Under 40” criminal defense attorney, he has also been honored as a New England Super Lawyer/Rising Star in the area of White-Collar Criminal Defense for each of the past six years by Boston Magazine.

I have the power and the skill to be able to save people from themselves. I can be your guide during the darkness. I can hold your hand and navigate you out of the darkness into the light.

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