Florida Man Pleads Guilty In Scheme To Acquire Valuable Artworks Fraudulently Using Stolen Identities
Scheme Targeted Works by Matisse, Picasso, and Hopper
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced that ANTONIO DIMARCO pled guilty in Manhattan federal court today to participating in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud, based on his attempt to fraudulently acquire millions of dollars’ worth of artworks from art galleries, auction houses, and private collectors from around the world. U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni presided over the defendant’s guilty plea.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “As he admitted in court today, Antonio DiMarco was a serial swindler, using stolen identities to access auctions, place winning bids on multimillion-dollar artworks, and defraud lenders and insurers into believing that he owned artworks he never actually acquired. Now the self-portrait DiMarco painted has been revealed to be a sham.”
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “Allegedly preying on an elderly woman, stealing her identity and using her financial information to commit a crime is simply despicable behavior. Mr. DiMarco is accused of trying to get money based on the value of artwork he didn’t own, and in his attempts he is alleged to have caused the victims in this investigation millions of dollars in losses. Whether it’s a scheme to steal a few dollars, or millions in precious works of art, criminals deserve to face justice and pay for their crimes.”
As alleged in the underlying Complaint, Indictment, public filings, and statements made in open court:
From at least as early as November 2017 through and including October 2018, DIMARCO and a co-conspirator attempted to acquire millions of dollars’ worth of artworks from around the world using a variety of methods, including through appropriating the identity and financial information of a particular victim, and creating and presenting a multitude of fraudulent documents.
For example, in November 2017, DIMARCO attempted to purchase artworks by Mark Rothko and Ad Reinhardt at an auction house located in New York, New York. DIMARCO obtained access to the auction through the use of an elderly victim’s identity documents, including her passport, and bank account information showing that the victim held liquid assets in excess of $7,000,000. DIMARCO and his co-conspirator further presented false information indicating that the victim had authorized DIMARCO to bid on her behalf, when in reality, the victim knew nothing about DIMARCO’s plan to purchase artworks in her name. DIMARCO won the auction, bidding close to $6,500,000 for the Rothko work, and $1,155,000 for the Reinhardt work. However, because DIMARCO in fact lacked funds to pay for the art, the auction house suffered a loss of close to $1,400,000.
Continuing throughout late 2017 through at least May 2018, DIMARCO and his co-conspirator attempted to purchase artworks from approximately 20 galleries and collectors throughout the world. Indeed, DIMARCO and his co-conspirator entered into completed sales agreements for more than 60 artworks totaling in excess of $150,000,000. Among other works, DIMARCO entered into a contract for a $16,500,000 Matisse painting. None of these works was ever paid for, yet to entice the galleries and collectors to continue to hold the artwork for DIMARCO and his co-conspirator, they provided strings of false excuses for non-payment. This caused galleries and collectors to suffer monetary losses.
Having failed to obtain valuable artworks that he had contracted to buy but never paid for, DIMARCO then began to seek out ways to monetize artworks that he had not acquired. DIMARCO created a series of false documents designed to deceive financiers and insurers into believing that in fact he owned the artworks. DIMARCO did this in hopes of obtaining funds based on the value of those artworks. DIMARCO was arrested in the course of executing this scheme, after having arranged a showing of high-value artwork he convinced others that he owned.
Through his plea today, DIMARCO further acknowledged two additional frauds conducted in the midst of the art scheme: a ploy to deprive a victim of hundreds of thousands of dollars through false representations concerning the purposes for providing the funds, and a scheme to purchase a high-end property in Manhattan using a fraudulently altered bank statement.
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DIMARCO, 43, of Florida, was arrested on December 6, 2018, by law enforcement authorities in Florida, and subsequently transferred to federal custody. DIMARCO pled guilty to one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
DIMARCO is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Caproni on February 7, 2020.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
These cases are being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Noah Falk, Tara M. La Morte, and Abigail S. Kurland are in charge of the prosecution.