FBI sting catches a Mexican man trying to sell fake artworks in New York

A newly unsealed complaint reveals that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has arrested a 49-year-old Mexican man called Angel Pereda for attempting to fraudulently sell artworks he claimed to be by two renowned twentieth-century artists, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Haring and Basquiat were contemporaries, who enjoyed a close friendship, and tragically both died within a few years of each other, at the ages of 31 and 27 respectively. Haring’s works are identifiable by their stylized images and recurring motifs such as barking dogs and three-eyed monsters. Basquiat, whose works were part of the Neo-Expressionism movement of the 1980s, explored social issues through his art, such as segregation, wealth and poverty. Both artists are extremely sought after, and regularly smash records at auction.

According to the complaint, Angel Pereda, who also goes by the name Angel Luis Pereda Eguiluz, approached a number of New York auction houses attempting to sell works he claimed to be by Haring, and even managed to consign a fake Basquiat for sale. When the Keith Haring Foundation noticed that two works supposedly by Haring in two separate auction houses consigned by different sellers were both fake, and both had provenance featuring the name “Pereda”, the scam began to unravel. One of the sellers cooperated with law enforcement, and the FBI managed to successfully execute a sting, in which the seller contacted Angel Pereda claiming that it had been noticed that the work was a forgery, and that new provenance papers would be required. The seller told Pereda that if these could be provided, the work could be sold for more than $6 million. Pereda supplied new documents which were sent over WhatsApp, thereby allowing law enforcement to catch him.

In a statement, Manhattan U.S. attorney Audrey Strauss explained, “as alleged Angel Pereda attempted to sell forgeries of artworks by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, among others, as genuine.” Strauss continued, “if real, such works would be worth millions. The alleged fakes have little or no value, except potentially as evidence of the alleged crime.” The statement highlighted the nefarious nature of Pereda’s actions, claiming he had an intention to deceive his victims through falsified documentation, and that he tried to trick purchasers into paying millions of dollars for faked works. William F. Sweeney Jr., assistant director of the FBI, added that Pereda, “used [art buyers] trust to his advantage by passing off worthless pieces as priceless works of art.”

Angel Pereda, who according to NBC news has also recently run an unsuccessful campaign to become mayor of the city of San Andrés Cholula in Mexico, could now face up to twenty years in prison for his actions.

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