Will Disgraced Art Dealer Inigo Philbrick Avoid Trial After All? Court Papers Suggest He Could Be in Settlement Talks With U.S. Authorities

After initially pleading not guilty, Philbrick may now be trying to strike a deal.

Inigo Philbrick. Image courtesy Patrick McMullan.

Disgraced art dealer Inigo Philbrick appears to be in talks with the U.S. government to settle the criminal charges against him.

In a letter to the District Court judge in June, acting U.S. attorney Cecilia Vogel asked for a 60-day adjournment “because the parties are in discussions regarding a potential resolution of the case.” (The judge granted the request, as well as a second one from Philbrick’s attorney citing the “extraordinarily voluminous” amount of discovery documents and a wish to “consider any pretrial motions.”) 

Philbrick, who was arrested on a remote island in the South Pacific in June 2020, has pleaded not guilty to charges of wire fraud and identity theft in the case, which is just one of a slew of lawsuits that have been filed against him in the past two years. He is also facing civil lawsuits from art collectors, clients, and dealers alleging that he fraudulently sold the same artworks to multiple buyers, and that he defaulted on loans he secured using art he didn’t actually own as collateral. The scope of his alleged fraud is estimated to be in excess of $25 million. 

Philbrick’s attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, did not respond to a request for comment, nor did the U.S. attorney’s office.

Following his arrest on Vanuatu, an island best known as the location for the ninth season of the show Survivor, Philbrick was brought back to New York, with stops along the way in U.S. prisons in Guam, Honolulu, Nevada, and Oklahoma. He was denied bail last summer because he was deemed a flight risk. If he reaches a settlement, he could avoid a criminal trial. The next hearing is scheduled for mid-November.

One of the largest civil claims against the dealer was brought in October 2019 by the German investors Fine Art Partners, which had partnered with Philbrick to jointly buy and sell blue-chip art by the likes of Yayoi Kusama and Rudolf Stingel. But Philbrick allegedly began secretly reselling shares of the works they bought while telling the investment company that it remained their main owner and beneficiary.

That lawsuit, which seeks the return of artworks and up to $14 million, first alerted the public to Philbrick’s alleged misdeeds, which had long been rumored in the art world. Shortly after it was filed, Philbrick shuttered his galleries in London and Miami and vanished. 

Meanwhile, Philbrick’s partner, the British reality star Victoria Baker Harber, has confirmed that she and Philbrick were secretly married by a shaman in Mexico in early 2019. She gave birth to their daughter, Gaia Grace, last year and announced the news with a photo shoot in Hello! magazine.

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