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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Lynn Man Arrested in Connection with Missing Warhol Paintings

Defendant allegedly took art from friend, falsely offered the authentic Warhol paintings for sale on eBay, but delivered fake paintings to buyer

BOSTON – A Lynn man was arrested today and charged in connection with taking and attempting to sell two Warhol paintings on eBay.

Brian R. Walshe, 43, of Lynn, was arrested and charged in a criminal complaint with one count of wire fraud. During an initial appearance today, Walshe was detained pending a probable cause and detention scheduled for Friday, May 11, 2017 before U.S District Court Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal.

According to court documents, in early November 2016, a buyer found two Andy Warhol paintings for sale on eBay. The paintings were two of Warhol’s “Shadows,” a series of untitled, abstract canvas paintings from 1978. The original listing price for the paintings was $100,000. The eBay seller included in the advertisement photographs of the paintings, a picture of an invoice from Fleishman Fine Art for the two Warhol Shadow paintings with Warhol Foundation numbers and a purchase price of $240,000.  

It is alleged that the buyer believed the paintings were authentic and between Nov. 3 and 5, 2016, arranged with Walshe – the seller – to purchase the artwork outside of eBay for $80,000. Walshe and the buyer signed a contract which specified that the buyer had three days to terminate the contract and get a full refund if the buyer did not accept the artwork. On Nov. 7, 2016, the buyer’s assistant flew to Boston, and met Walshe to retrieve the paintings, providing him with a cashier’s check for $80,000. According to bank records, the cashier’s check was deposited that day into an account that Walshe controlled, and $33,400 was subsequently withdrawn in the following 14 days. On Nov. 8, 2016, the buyer removed the paintings’ frames and found no Warhol Foundation authentication stamps and also noticed that the canvasses and staples looked new. When he compared the paintings to the photographs from the eBay listing, they did not look identical. The buyer concluded that the paintings he purchased from Walshe were not authentic. The buyer then repeatedly attempted to contact Walshe, who initially did not respond, and then made excuses for the delay in refunding the buyer’s money.

In 2007, an employee of Fleishman Fine Art purchased the paintings from Jablonka Gallery in Germany for a client.  The true owner of the paintings was a South Korean national who has known Walshe personally since 1994. 

According to court documents, the South Korean national (the victim) purchased a number of pieces of art from the gallery employee. Walshe was present when the victim first purchased a Warhol painting. Sometime after this purchase, the victim purchased the two Shadow paintings from the gallery employee, who had since left the gallery but was still dealing in fine art. Thereafter, while visiting the victim in South Korea, Walshe told the victim that he could sell some of the art for a good price. The victim agreed, and let Walshe take the two Shadow paintings, and other fine art pieces.

It is alleged that after Walshe took the items, the victim did not hear from Walshe and was unable to contact him. Eventually, the victim contacted a mutual friend, who met with Walshe and retrieved some of the art. According to court documents, on May 3, 2011, Walshe attempted to consign the Warhol paintings to a gallery in New York City, at which time he also had other art belonging to the victim. The gallery declined to accept the paintings because Walshe did not have a bill of sale.

It is alleged that Walshe took the art from the victim, and falsely offered the authentic Warhol paintings for sale on eBay, but delivered fake paintings to the buyer. The investigation is ongoing.

The charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Office, made the announcement today. The Lynn Police Department provided assistance with the investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy E. Moran of Lelling’s Organized Crime and Gang Unit is prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the charging document are allegations.  The defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in the court of law. 

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Updated May 9, 2018