LYNN (CBS) — A Lynn man took paintings from a friend, claimed they were authentic Andy Warhol paintings when he put them up for sale, then delivered fake paintings, according to Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel Mendell. Forty-six-year-old Brian Walshe was arrested in 2018 and pleaded guilty to several charges on Thursday.
In November of 2016, a buyer found two Warhol paintings for sale on eBay. They were two of Warhol’s “Shadows,” a series of untitled, abstract canvas paintings from 1978. The seller was Walshe.
The listing showed a picture of an invoice for the two Warhol Shadow paintings with Warhol Foundation numbers and a purchase price of $240,000, according to the US Attorney. The original eBay listing price was $100,000.
Between Nov. 3 and 5, 2016, a buyer agreed to purchase the paintings outside of eBay for $80,000. The two had a signed agreement that the buyer had three days to get a full refund if they did not accept the artwork. On Nov. 7, the buyer’s assistant flew to Boston and picked up the paintings in exchange for a cashier’s check.
“According to bank records, the cashier’s check was deposited that day into an account that Walshe controlled, and $33,400 was subsequently withdrawn in the following 14 days,” said the US Attorney.
One day after the purchase, “the buyer removed the paintings’ frames and found no Warhol Foundation authentication stamps and noticed that the canvasses and staples looked new. When he compared the paintings to the photographs from the eBay listing, they did not look identical. The buyer concluded that the paintings he purchased from Walshe were not authentic.”
Walshe initially didn’t respond and made excuses to delay refunding the man, the US Attorney said.
Walshe got the paintings in question through a friend. While visiting the friend in South Korea, Walshe told them that he could sell some of their art, including the Shadow paintings, for a good price. They agreed but after Walshe took the items, he disappeared. Eventually, a mutual friend met with Walshe and retrieved some of the art.
The US Attorney said in May 2011, Walshe tried to bring the Warhol paintings to a gallery in New York City, but the gallery declined to accept the paintings because Walshe did not have a bill of sale.
Walshe pleaded guilty to wire fraud, interstate transportation for a scheme to defraud, possession of converted goods and unlawful monetary transaction.
He will be sentenced on August 2. The charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.