A longtime assistant to artist Jasper Johns, whose "Flag" sold at auction in 2010 for $28.6 million, pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges that he duped a Manhattan gallery into selling stolen work by Johns so he could collect the profits.
It was the second time this year that someone has been charged with defrauding Johns, 84, and others in connection with his work. In February, a former foundry owner from Queens pleaded guilty to trying to sell counterfeit versions of "Flag."
Meyer pleaded guilty to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. As part of his plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to seek a term of 37 to 46 months imprisonment when Meyer is sentenced in December.
The plea ended a case that showcased the extraordinary wealth gap in the art world, which Meyer gained entry to in 1985 when he became a studio assistant to Johns after attending art school in New York City.
According to an interview that he posted on his website, Meyer met Johns by chance when he went knocking on studio doors in search of work as an artist's apprentice.
"I had no idea what his work was like," Meyer told the interviewer, adding that if he had not gone to art school, he probably would not have known that Jasper Johns was an artist. Nevertheless, two hours after meeting Johns, Meyer said, "He hired me, told me to come back the next day, and that was more than 10 years ago."
The interview was conducted in 2005, as Meyer tried to make his mark in the art world with showings of his own artwork at galleries mainly in New York.
By then, Johns had established himself as one of America's most influential contemporary artists through works such as "Flag" and "Map." Both are displayed in New York's Museum of Modern Art.
When Christie's in 2010 sold "Flag" at auction in 2010, its $28.6-million sale price was well above the expected high bid, and it was a record at that time for the artist at auction. Art experts said Johns' works brought much higher prices in private sales.
Works by Meyer listed on his website for sale are priced at about $750 to $950.
Meyer, who lives in Connecticut, was arrested in August 2013. According to a federal indictment, Meyer's duties as Johns' assistant included maintaining a file of unfinished works that were not to be released onto the art market.
The indictment said Meyer took 22 pieces from that file and from elsewhere in Johns' studio and told a Manhattan gallery that the artist had given him the work to sell. Meyer received $3.4 million of the $6.5 million raised from sales of the works, prosecutors said.