A 29-year-old man from Connecticut pled guilty in federal court to mail fraud in case involving the sale of 145 forged Peter Max paintings for over $248,600, NBC Connecticut reports.
Nicholas P. Hatch, who owned an estate sales company in Norwalk, Connecticut, sold the works to 43 different people using a sundry of websites and aliases, and often provided phony certificates of authenticity to his buyers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Connecticut.
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Hatch’s scheme fell apart after a former employee contacted the authorities upon finding around 100 Peter Max paintings in a warehouse owned by Hatch’s firm, Hatch Estate Services LLC. The employee said he’d heard that Hatch would buy Peter Max prints, then add the artist’s signature and additional paint to make the work appear authentic.
Hatch was arrested on May 9 and has been detained since July 14 for violating a pre-trial release agreement. His sentencing is scheduled for October 30.
In recent years, there has seemingly been an increase in high-profile fraud and forgery cases, a byproduct of the secretive nature of the art world and the exorbitant amounts of money that changes hands with little to no government oversight.
In late 2022 the Orlando Museum of Art (OMA) was found to have put on an exhibition of Basquiat works in which each of the 25 paintings on view were forgeries. In May 2020, the up-and-coming art dealer Inigo Philbrick was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud after being accused of using forged ownership documents when selling works and once even listing a “stolen identity” as the seller of a painting in a contract.
Even Old Master works are susceptible to forgery. This past June, the 65-year-old Italian painter Pasquale “Lino” Frongia was arrested for allegedly colluding with the French art dealer Giuliano Ruffini to sell forged Old Master paintings to auction houses and dealers in New York, Paris, and London.