New York art dealer charged with $37.8 million fraud

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - A New York art dealer has been indicted in connection with an alleged scheme to bilk two Manhattan galleries out of more than US$30 million (S$37.8 million) by peddling fake paintings purportedly created by world-renowned artists, federal prosecutors said.

Glafira Rosales, 56, was charged with wire fraud, money laundering, filing false tax returns and failing to report assets from a foreign bank account, according to the indictment in Manhattan federal court. If convicted on all charges, she faces a maximum prison sentence of 59 years, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Rosales, who was arrested on May 21, is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges on Friday. Her lawyer did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday evening.

Prosecutors said in court filings that Rosales sold more than 60 allegedly never-before-seen works of art from some of the most renowned artists of the 20th century, including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. In fact, the paintings were fake, and Rosales knew it, prosecutors alleged.

Prosecutors said Rosales claimed to represent a Swiss client or a Spanish collector, neither of whom existed, but instead kept most proceeds and transferred large sums to her boyfriend at the time.

Rosales also hid her income from the sales and failed to report at least US$12.5 million in income on her taxes between 2006 and 2008, the indictment said. She also allegedly failed to report to US tax authorities assets in a foreign bank account in 2010 and 2011.

"The indictment depicts a complete circle of fraud perpetrated by Glafira Rosales - fake paintings sold on behalf of non-existent clients with money deposited in a hidden bank account," Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

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