Art Dealer Inigo Philbrick Will Be Kept In US Custody After His Fiancée’s Family’s Bahamas Real Estate Was Rejected as Bail Collateral

Philbrick's mother also offered to put up her house in Connecticut as bond.

Inigo Philbrick. © Patrick McMullan. Photo by Liam McMullan / PMC

In a telephone pre-trial hearing yesterday evening, art dealer Inigo Philbrick, who was officially indicted on charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft by the US government on July 13, was denied bail and ordered to be held in a Manhattan correctional facility.

The bulk of the evening’s hearing centered on Philbrick’s actions over the past several months, his perceived intentions, and whether he posed a flight risk.

It emerged that Philbrick’s mother, Jane, was willing to put up her house in Connecticut as bond for his release. Philbrick’s fiancée, former reality TV star Victoria Baker-Harber, and her family were also willing to put up additional collateral, including real estate in the Bahamas, and other assets abroad, worth an estimated $2 million.

“When he left, he abandoned his art galleries and abruptly stopped communicating with clients and lenders. He stopped responding to the legal process,” assistant US Attorney Cecilia Vogel, arguing against granting bail, said during the hearing, noting various international legal claims against Philbrick.

Vogel said that following his arrest in June on the South Pacific island of Vanuatu, to where he fled in October as a slew of asset-seizure claims were filed against him, “he made several post-arrest statements that indicated his intent to flee.”

Vogel argued that Philbrick was “under the impression that Vanuatu had no extradition agreement with the US or most other countries, so that it was difficult to apprehend him while he was there.”

She called $25 million a “conservative estimate” of his overall fraud scheme and said that wire transfer records indicated that between 2016 and 2019, over $200 million flowed through accounts that Philbrick controlled.

“I’m not claiming all of it was fraudulent, but it gives you an idea of the volume of business he was doing,” Vogel said, adding that it is possible he has assets abroad that allowed him to support himself while he was a “fugitive” in Vanuatu. She surmised that those same assets might be available to him if he were to flee again.

In a lengthy counterargument, Philbrick’s attorney, Peter Brill, argued that Philbrick “flew very high and sank very low.” He said that Philbrick’s current assets were in the realm of only “tens of thousands” of dollars, and that “his entire business had collapsed and he had no money to pay his attorneys. He has been supported by his fiancée and her family.”

A now-deleted Instagram photo of Victoria Baker Harber with Inigo Philbrick. Photo courtesy:

A now-deleted Instagram photo of Victoria Baker-Harber with Inigo Philbrick. Photo courtesy:

Brill did not respond to Artnet News’s additional request for comment.

Brill said Philbrick went to Vanuatu in part at the suggestion of Baker-Harber, who has family in Fiji.

“The cliche of the South Pacific island where no one can reach you is certainly not great optics,” Brill conceded. “But he was never aware of a criminal investigation, and the way this arrest took place was designed so that he wasn’t aware of one.”

Brill told the court that Philbrick’s US passport, which he left in Vanuatu when he was abruptly seized and expelled, has been canceled, adding that, as an asthmatic, Philbrick is more vulnerable to potential COVID-19 infection in jail.

At times, Judge James L. Cott appeared to lean in Philbrick’s favor, noting that he had no criminal history nor any record of violence, and that he appeared to pose no safety risks to others.

He also noted that Philbrick used his own name and passport while traveling internationally, which he said weighed in his favor. But he ultimately decided in favor of the government.

The facility where Philbrick is reportedly being held, the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan, has housed other notorious inmates, including convicted Ponzi-scheme fraudster Bernie Madoff and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who was found dead in a jail cell there last summer.

Following reports last week that Philbrick was being held in a county jail in Oklahoma, Tuesday’s bail hearing—which lasted over one hour—revealed that Philbrick arrived in New York on July 14.

The hearing included mention of previous stops at an Immigration and Custom Enforcement facility in Nevada. Prior to that, Philbrick was held in a federal detention center in Honolulu, Hawaii, and in the US territory of Guam.

Judd Grossman, an attorney representing several of Philbrick’s former clients who allege that they lost millions of dollars as a result of the art dealer’s misrepresentations, told Artnet News: “The court was correct in denying Philbrick’s bail application based on his significant flight risk… now it is time that he remain in New York to face these serious criminal and civil charges.”

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics