According to the United States Department of Justice, art crime ranks third among the world’s highest grossing criminal trades, with drugs and arms ranking as numbers one and two. Art and antiquities crimes include outright theft, trafficking and looting, but it can also consist of fraud, which includes forged signatures of artists, selling art that is purported to be by an artist but which is actually counterfeit, failure to deliver artwork or antiquities, fake provenance on artwork or antiquities, and more. Though art and antiquities fraud has been going on for centuries, the existence of the Internet and online auctions as well as technology that enables meticulous reproduction of valued pieces has made the crime even more prevalent. If you think you have been subjected to fraud, our antiquities and art fraud attorney can help.
Art and antiquities fraud can be subject to criminal prosecution by the federal government on charges including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO), mail fraud and wire fraud. It can also fall under a variety of state criminal laws against forgery and fraud, and civil litigation for fraud. Pursuing an art or antiquities fraud lawsuit can encompass many different areas of the law, including contract law, intellectual property law, trust law, fraud, taxation, and business law.
Where antiquities and art fraud can be proven with “clear and convincing evidence,” plaintiffs are able to recover punitive damages, costs and even attorneys’ fees from auction houses, appraisers and others who have been involved in the sale. The attorneys of Bochetto & Lentz have successfully represented clients who have purchased a wide range of items ranging from oil paintings and civil war uniforms to NASA equipment and moon rocks. The litigation of art and antiquities fraud can be extremely complex, as questions of authenticity can involve conflicting documentation of authenticity and attribution and limited factual support. Our experience includes litigation as well as negotiations and settlements, and in all cases involves the extensive utilization of resources such as expert witnesses and art professionals.
Proving art and antiquities fraud involves a number of important elements. These include:
- Proving that the misrepresentation of facts about the artwork or its provenance spurred the purchase.
- Proving that a financial loss was suffered as a result of the misrepresentation. This particular element goes to the purchase as an investment.
- Proving that the defendant was aware of the fact that the art or antiquity was being misrepresented and that the deception was intended. This can be difficult in situations where the art is being sold by an auction house or art dealer who may have also been duped into a purchase. However, as professionals these entities have a responsibility to perform due diligence as to the authenticity and provenance of art and antiquities that they are both purchasing and selling.
The purchase of art and antiquities is an area of growing interest, and unfortunately so is fraudulent activity. If you believe you have been the victim of fraud, contact the Philadelphia law firm of Bochetto & Lentz for experienced, knowledgeable representation.