Florida Pastor on Trial for Selling Fake Damien Hirst Paintings
A New York City court is hearing the case of a Flordia pastor who attempted to sell phoney Damien Hirst spin paintings, the Telegraph reports.
Forty-six year-old Kevin Sutherland is the founder of the Mosaic Miami Church, a non-denominational, 200-member congregation in Flordia. On the side, however, he is accused of selling Hirst forgeries.
The defendant describes himself as an art world novice who couldn’t tell that the artworks were fake. Sutherland was arrested last year after he attempted to sell five counterfeit paintings and prints to an undercover cop for $185,000.
The officer knew that Sotheby’s had questioned the authenticity of one work, but when pressed, Sutherland denied there were any potential problems with the art. The pastor claims that the auction house never definitively called the artworks fake, but instead suggested he reach out to the artist directly.
Sutherland, for his part, was loath to undergo the expensive authentication process. More importantly, he trusted the word of Vincent Lopreto, a California gallery owner and known art scammer who sold him the works. Lopreto, who has previously been convicted of selling Hirst forgeries, has already pleaded guilty with his business partner Ronald Bell.
Jury deliberations are underway today.
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