Dealer in Knoedler forgery scandal escapes jail time

The Long Island art dealer who sold fake Abstract Expressionist art to New York’s Knoedler Gallery has been handed a get-out-of-jail-free card by a Manhattan judge.

Glafira Rosales was indicted by the US Government in May 2013 on charges of conspiracy, tax fraud and wire fraud from the sale of up to US$60 million (£42 million) worth of fake art to the former Knoedler Gallery. On Tuesday (31 January), District Judge Katherine Polk Failla sentenced Rosales to nine months of home detention as part of a three year supervised release for her involvement in the scheme. 

Rosales already served three months in prison following her initial arrest and had been facing a jail term of 151 to 181 months according to sentencing guidelines, but her lawyers asked for leniency. Judge Failla opted not to sentence Rosales to further imprisonment after she heard arguments from the defense that the art dealer was coerced by an abusive boyfriend.

According to her lawyers, Rosales’ former boyfriend Jose Carlos Bergantinos Diaz was the true mastermind behind the sale of the fake works. It was Diaz who met with Chinese artist, Pei-Shen Qian and had him create the forgeries in a garage in Queens, which Diaz then sold to several galleries. Rosales became the face of the operation after doubts over the authenticity of the works emerged. When she tried to extricate herself from the scheme Diaz threatened her.

I do believe that you did a lot of what you did because of concern for your daughter being harmed or taken away from you,” Judge Failla said.

Ten lawsuits were brought against Knoedler and its former President Ann Freedman for knowingly selling forgeries of works by Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Knoedler and Freedman claimed they had no idea the works were fake when they purchased them from Rosales.

The gallery reached a settlement with collector John Howard in December 2015 over the sale of a fake Willem de Kooning painting for US$4 million (£2.8 million). After a brief trial, Chairman of Sotheby’s Board of Directors Domenico de Sole and his wife Eleanore also settled with Knoedler in February 2016 over the sale of a counterfeit Mark Rothko work.

Of the four defendants implicated in the forgery scandal Rosales is the only one to have been sentenced. Diaz and his brother, Jesus Angel Bergantinos Diaz were arrested in Spain in 2014 but extradition requests from the US Government have been denied. Qian is believed to be in China.

Rosales was credited by prosecution lawyers for her cooperation with the government, which enabled investigators to learn where and how the fake paintings were made and what stories were fabricated to sell them.

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