Authorities in New York City have arrested 49-year-old Angel Pereda of Mexico for trying to sell forged art that he claimed had been created by famous artists, including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, for millions of dollars, according to the United States attorney for the Southern District.
The alleged crimes occurred in 2020 and 2021, with Pereda approaching auction houses in New York to sell artworks he claimed to be created by Basquiat and Haring, among others.
“If real, such works would be worth millions,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement announcing the Friday arrest. “The alleged fakes have little or no value, except potentially as evidence of the alleged crime.”
Authorities say Pereda attempted to pass off art as authentic by falsifying the provenance of the pieces, or creating fake ownership histories. A sting brought him down.
After the Keith Haring Foundation determined a yellow vase and a colorful painting being offered to two different New York auction houses were not genuine Harings, the FBI traced the pieces to Pereda. They then gained cooperation from an intermediary seller, according to a recently unsealed affidavit given by an FBI agent. The seller told Pereda a painting had been discovered as a fake, in part because of its false provenance records. The seller said he’d still attempt to sell it, for $6 million, if Pereda sent new provenance information. Pereda did so, transferring the freshly falsified document via WhatsApp.
Pereda has been charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He could not be reached for comment.
“As we allege, Mr. Pereda conned art buyers, hoping his victims wouldn’t see the difference between real art and a forgery,” FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a statement. “He used their trust to his advantage by passing off worthless pieces as priceless works of art. Hopefully, this case provides a lesson to any others hoping to engage in similar behavior — the FBI’s Art Crime Team has the resources to distinguish the real from the fake, and its members will ensure you face the consequences of your actions.”