A man accused of selling dozens of fake Pollock and de Kooning artworks pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in federal court on Monday, the New York Times reports.
Prosecutors said John Re inflicted $2.5 million in losses on his victims (see “Hamptonite Arrested for Peddling Fake Jackson Pollocks on eBay“). They also said that Re had used the money to buy a submarine, named Deep Quest.
Re, who will be sentenced on April 10 in a Manhattan District Court, faces up to 20 years in prison. As part of a plea agreement, he is banned from selling the submarine until he repays the $2.5 million.
According to prosecutors, Re’s frauds began in 2005, when he started selling fake artworks to collectors tricked by fabricated provenance documents. He continued to sell the imitations even after appraisers had determined the items were not the real deal.
Prosecutors also accused Re of threatening a victim who had confronted him with violence, claiming connections to organized crime.
The submarine itself is another piece in the forgery puzzle, and its authenticity is widely disputed.
In 2007, Re—who claimed to have bought the vessel for $70,000 and spent $1 million retrofitting it—said that he was using the submarine as a luxury houseboat as it was no longer fit to dive.
In 2010, Re told a local newspaper that the submarine had been built by Lockheed Corporation and used by the Navy. But a Navy museum official said the authentic Deep Quest was still on display at a museum in Washington State, and that Re’s submarine was a “movie prop.”
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