MIAMI – (CBSMiami.com) – Several pricey pieces of art have turned out to be forgeries, investors have been defrauded and now authorities say there may be more victims.
Miami-Dade Police have arrested a man earlier this month who they say has stolen or defrauded more than $1.2 million from artists and investors as he peddles paintings billing them as “originals.” Police suspect the amount could be as high as $5 million.
Police say 49-year-old Jorge Gonzalez doctored documents to create fake certificates of authenticity and then sold forged paintings to individuals or galleries.
Gonzalez may have used the forged paintings as collateral for loans or in other cases taking original works without paying for them, police said.
In one case that dates back to 2000, Gonzalez and an accomplice defrauded an art dealer out of $260,000. Gonzalez misrepresented a painting titled “Figura” by a famous Cuban artist Amelia Pelaez. After paying Gonzalez for the painting, the art dealer realized it was a forgery. Gonzalez convinced the art dealer to return the forged painting so that he could resell it to recover his money. Instead, police say, the art dealer was duped again – left without the forgery.
Another case occurred in November of 2009, when Gonzalez allegedly negotiated the purchase of ten original paintings from another art dealer. Instead, police say Gonzalez stole them at gun point.
Gonzalez is behind bars and is being held without bond. He faces multiple counts of third-degree grand theft.
Police are asking anyone who believes he or she may have been a victim of this scheme to call Crimestoppers at 305-471-TIPS (8477).