The First Suspect in a Massive Canadian Art Fraud Is Sentenced

Gary Lamont will spend five years in jail for his role in a 13-year forgery scheme.

Artist Norval Morrisseau in a photo from 1977. Photo: Graham Bezant/Toronto Star via Getty Images.

One of eight suspects in a major fraud involving indigenous art in Canada was sentenced to five years in jail in a Northern Ontario court yesterday (December 14).

Gary Lamont, 61, of Thunder Bay, was involved in producing and selling fake works purported to be by indigenous artist Norval Morriseau from 2002 to 2015. Judge Bonnie Warkentin handed down the sentence in a hearing that lasted roughly three hours, according to various reports

CTV News reports that Lamont is getting a year’s worth of credit for time served. 

A representative for the Ontario Provincial Police, who handled the investigation, declined to comment via email. “We are…not in position to comment as other individuals are still before the courts, charged in this matter,” the representative said.

The case reportedly took two and a half years to investigate, during which over 1,000 counterfeit paintings, prints, and artwork were seized, though the total number of faked works is not known.

Lamont was hit with charges including forgery, “uttering a forged document,” defrauding the public out of more than $5,000, and commission of an offense for a criminal organization in connection with the fake art, according to CTV.

A fake Norval Morrisseau artwork seized by police as part of a multi-year investigation into an Ontario forgery ring. Courtesy of the OPP.

Lamont pleaded guilty to making false documents and defrauding the public out of more than $5,000 on Dec. 4.

The six other people identified as charged in the case include: Morrisseau’s 53-year-old nephew Benjamin; a 51-year-old man; a 63-year-old woman; a 47-year-old Niagara-on-the-Lake man; a 75-year-old Locust Hill man and an 81-year-old Essa Township man. They have yet to appear in court. It was not immediately clear whether a seventh suspect had been charged. 

The CTV report notes that Lamont already has a substantial criminal record, including a conviction for sexual assault. He has been in custody since May 2022 on additional sexual assault charges.

Morriseau, who was also known as Copper Thunderbird, is widely considered to be the grandfather of contemporary Indigenous art in Canada. He was a member of the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation, who married Indigenous lore, mystical symbols, and political messages in his work. He died in December 2007.

According to the Artnet Price Database, the highest price at auction for one of his works is $240,555 (CAD$312,000) set in June 2022.


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