Lynn Man Pleads Guilty in Connection with Missing Warhol Paintings
Defendant took art from friend, falsely offered the authentic Warhol paintings for sale on eBay, but delivered fake paintings to buyer
BOSTON – A Lynn man pleaded guilty today in connection with taking and attempting to sell two Warhol paintings on eBay.
Brian R. Walshe, 46, pleaded guilty to one count each of wire fraud, interstate transportation for a scheme to defraud, possession of converted goods and unlawful monetary transaction. U.S. Senior District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock scheduled sentencing for Aug. 2, 2021. In May 2018, Walshe was arrested and charged.
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. In the advertisement, the eBay seller included a picture of an invoice for the two Warhol Shadow paintings with Warhol Foundation numbers and a purchase price of $240,000.
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the cashier’s check was deposited that day into an account that Walshe controlled, and $33,400 was subsequently withdrawn in the following 14 days.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 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.
Walshe initially gained access to the paintings through a friend (the victim). Walshe was present when the victim first purchased a Warhol painting. Sometime after this purchase, the victim purchased the two Shadow paintings. 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.
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. 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.
The charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of interstate transportation for a scheme to defraud provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of possession of converted goods provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of unlawful monetary transaction provides for a sentence of up to 10 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.
Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, 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 and Kunal Pasricha of Mendell’s Criminal Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Lazarus, Chief of Mendell’s Asset Recovery Unit, are prosecuting the case.