California man will plead guilty in fake modern art fraud

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Southern California man has agreed to plead guilty to trying to sell $6 million worth of phony paintings he claimed were created by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and other modern masters, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Philip Righter, 43, of West Hollywood acknowledged that he used some fakes as collateral for loans he never repaid and for phony income tax write-offs, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which said the plea agreement was filed Tuesday in Los Angeles federal court.

Righter tried to bilk victims out of $6 million and caused more than $758,000 in losses, along with more than $100,000 in costs to the federal government through tax fraud, prosecutors said.

Richter sold the bogus artworks from 2016 through June of 2018, creating phony documents to back up his claims that they were genuine, prosecutors said.

Some of the documents were stamped with counterfeits of the embossing stamps used by the estates of Basquiat and Keith Haring to authenticate pieces, prosecutors said.

Under his agreement, Righter will plead guilty to wire fraud, tax fraud and aggravated identity theft at a later date and could face up to 25 years in federal prison, although prosecutors will ask for a lower sentence. Righter also must pay restitution to his victims.

Righter also is facing charges in Florida over an alleged $1 million art fraud attempt involving a Miami gallery.

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