London art dealer sentenced to 7 years in prison for $86m fraud

He fled to Vanuatu as the scheme collapsed, say prosecutors.
He fled to Vanuatu as the scheme collapsed, say prosecutors. Copyright Canva Images
Copyright Canva Images
By Joshua Askew with AP
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A former London art dealer, who pleaded guilty to defrauding buyers out of $86m, has been jailed for 7 years.


A former London art dealer has been jailed, after pleading guilty to defrauding buyers of artworks out of $86 million (€80 million). 

Inigo Philbrick, a 34-year-old US citizen and former London resident, was sentenced on Monday to seven years in prison at a Manhattan federal court by Judge Sidney Stein. 

He was also ordered to forfeit the multi-million dollar sum of money.

In November 2021, Philbrick pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud for his multi-year scheme to defraud people and businesses into financing his art business. 

Prosecutors said Philbrick's scheme worked by misrepresenting ownership of certain artworks and by sometimes selling more than 100 per cent ownership to multiple individuals and entities without their knowledge.

“Unfortunately, his success was built on brazen lies, including concealed ownership interests, fake documents, and even an invented art collector," said US attorney Damian Williams in a statement. “When the house of cards fell apart, Philbrick fled for a remote island in the Pacific, leaving many of his victims without recourse.

"For his extensive fraud, Philbrick is now sentenced to a substantial prison term,” he added. 

The offence Philbrick was charged with is wire fraud. In US law, this is a type of fraud involving the use of telecommunications or the internet, including phone calls, emails, texts or social media messaging. 

It is punishable by fines and up to 20 years of imprisonment. 

Artworks used in Philbrick's fraud included a 1982 painting by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat titled 'Humidity', a 2010 untitled painting by the artist Christopher Wool, and an untitled 2012 painting by the artist Rudolf Stingel depicting the artist Pablo Picasso, according to authorities.

Philbrick's scheme began to crumble following a series of civil lawsuits by art buyers, a notification that he was in default of a $14 million (€13 million) loan and when he stopped responding to legal processes, prosecutors said.

They added that his art galleries in Miami and London were closed in 2019 after Philbrick fled from the US to the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. He was arrested on the island in June 2020, having lived there since October 2019.

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