Spanish Dealer Arrested for Role in Knoedler Forgery Scam

A fake Rothko, Untitled, sold by the Knoedler gallery is now the subject of a lawsuit.

Spanish officials have arrested art dealer Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz and his brother Jesus Angel Bergantiños Diaz in connection to the $80-million Knoedler & Co. art forgery scandal, reports the New York Times. Long Island–based art dealer Glafira Rosales, Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz’s girlfriend, has already pleaded guilty on counts of wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy, and will be sentenced in the fall.

The US government is expected to file extradition orders on Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz, who suffered an anxiety attack after his Easter Sunday arrest and was hospitalized for a short time. The extent of his brother’s involvement in the scheme is still unclear, although Spanish bank accounts in his name were used in the transfer of $33 million in funds raised through the sale of fraudulent art.

Rosales and Bergantiños Diaz enlisted Queens-based painter Pei-Shen Qian to supply their ersatz Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Robert Motherwell canvases, which they sold primarily though New York’s venerable Knoedler & Co. and Julian Weissman galleries over a period of 15 years. The artist is currently being sought by the FBI and is believed to have fled to his native China.

In addition to the criminal proceedings against Rosales and now Bergantiños Diaz, there are several civil cases pending (see report from artnet News).

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