CHICAGO -- A Chicago art gallery owner, one of his employees and a man from New York created or sold hundreds of fake art prints that were purported to be rare, limited first editions by famous artists, according to a federal indictment.
Alan Kass, 73, owner of Kass/Meridian Gallery, or KMG, Sawyer K. Cade, 47, also of Chicago, and John Panos, 64, of New York and Florida, made or sold what they claimed were limited-edition prints by artists including Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall and Salvador Dali, according to an indictment handed up Tuesday. All three were charged under federal fraud laws.
The indictments bring to 12 the number of people charged in a forged-art scheme in the United States and Europe involving the distribution of $5 million worth of counterfeit art. The initial charges came after raids on the Kass gallery in early 2008.
Kass sold hundreds of counterfeit prints and other artworks falsely advertised as being original prints by famous artists, many of them obtained through Panos from a New York-based art dealer, Leon Amiel Jr., according to the charges.
Amiel and Michael Zabin, of Northbrook, Ill., have already pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges in the art-dealing scheme and are expected to be sentenced this spring, prosecutors said.
Panos is alleged to have forged the signatures of some artists on what were advertised as fine art prints, and also distributed a large number of counterfeit artworks to both Kass and Zabrin that he had obtained from Amiel, according to the indictment.
To help their part of the scheme along, Kass and Cade -- who also goes by "Alexander E. Swing" and "Xander Swing" -- created fake certificates of authenticity for some of the prints, the government said.
Zabin has been cooperating with investigators -- just as he did in a similar investigation of Chicago galleries 20 years ago -- according to his attorney.
Anyone who may have bought a forgery may call the U.S. Justice Department at 866-364-2621, to have a form mailed to them, or check online at the U.S. attorney's office.
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