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9 Andy Warhol prints stolen from an L.A. business and replaced with fakes

Nine Andy Warhol silk-screen prints valued at $350,000 were stolen from a business in Los Angeles and replaced with fakes, according to an affidavit.

The Los Angeles Police Department’s Art Detail is investigating the theft and are looking for the original prints, Det. Don Hrycyk said.

The artwork featured two original silk-screen collections from the late pop artist, according to an LAPD affidavit filed in L.A. County Superior Court.

Six signed prints were from the 1980 collection Ten Jews of the Twentieth Century valued at $150,000, featuring Louis Brandeis, Martin Buber, George Gershwin, Sarah Bernhardt, Gertude Stein and Sigmund Freud.

The other stolen art pieces were from the pricier 1983 collection Endangered Species, including three signed prints of his Siberian Tiger, Bald Eagle and Bighorn Ram. The collection was valued at $200,000.

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Detectives believe the thief took photographs of the prints and replaced the art with large color copies, according to the affidavit. The thief probably used a special tool to remove the delicate prints off the walls and unscrew the frames.

The silk-screens probably were stolen in the last three years because of the condition of the fakes.

The owners of the stolen artwork didn’t immediately notice the prints were phonies, according to the affidavit.

When one of the owners noticed some of the art was sagging and needed be reframed, he took two prints to an West Adams neighborhood framing shop. The shop specializes in framing high-end art pieces.

As the owner of the shop inspected the prints in July, he discovered the art was fake. The phony copies did not have signatures and edition numbers. The lines within the prints were also fuzzy.

It was then that the art owners examined the other pieces in the collections and noticed nine had been replaced with copies.

The prints usually decorate the walls of the family’s business on the fourth-floor of a commercial building. The name of the business was redacted from the affidavit, but the family uses the space for movie editing.

At least one of the prints may have been sold. A Bald Eagle print was sold through Bonhams auction house in October 2011, according to the affidavit. The print appears to be similar to the stolen artwork.

Detectives believe details about the original sale could lead them to the print, so it can be returned to its owner, according to the affidavit.

Bonhams spokeswoman Kristin Guiter said the auction house has responded to an LAPD request for information on a Warhol print. 

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