Four people representing a Manhattan art gallery were indicted Monday on charges of bilking more than 1,000 would-be art investors by selling fake Salvador Dali signed lithographs in a $3.4-million fraud.
The four, owners and employees of the now-defunct Barclay Gallery, allegedly used high-pressure telephone sales pitches to sell, at prices ranging from $1,300 to $6,000, posters that they had purchased for $53 to $200, U.S. Atty. Rudolph W. Giuliani said.
The 1,003 victims were mostly doctors and lawyers nationwide who purchased lithographs between March, 1983, and April, 1985. The gallery went out of business after the three-year investigation of its operation began, Giuliani said.
Not Produced by Dali “The lithographs and etchings that were sold by Barclay were actually inexpensive posters that were neither produced, authorized nor signed by Salvador Dali and would not increase in value,” the indictment said.
“The defendants engaged in a scheme to defraud the public through the sale of fake Dali lithographs (and) operated a high-pressure telephone sales business, misrepresenting the pictures as being limited-edition lithographs and etchings that were authorized, produced and signed by Salvador Dali and that had good investment values,” Giuliani said.
Jack Ellis, an inspector in the New York division of the Postal Service’s mail fraud unit, said the 84-year-old Spanish artist has increasingly become a target for counterfeiters because his age and poor health make it difficult for him to personally verify his work.
In all, worldwide scams involving sales of bogus Dali artworks have totaled about $1 billion, Ellis said.
“He’s a living artist, but he’s a recluse,” said Ellis of the theatrically mustachioed Dali. “He’s not in a position healthwise to verify and authenticate a lot of the works being produced under his name.”