Prominent Ghanaian Influencer Charged For Role In Romance Scheme And Extradited From United Kingdom To The United States
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that ANTONIO DIMARCO was sentenced in Manhattan federal court today to 54 months in prison for 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 sentencing.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Antonio DiMarco was a serial conman and deceiver who stole people’s identities, placed winning bids on renowned artworks he couldn’t afford, and defrauded lenders and insurers with false claims of ownership. As the Court noted today, DiMarco would lie to anyone if it suited his interests. DiMarco received a prison sentence commensurate with the severity of his 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 slew 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 million. 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 $6.5 million for the Rothko work, and $1,155,000 for the Reinhardt work. As DIMARCO in fact lacked funds to pay for the art, however, the auction house suffered a loss of close to $1.4 million.
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 million. Among other works, DIMARCO entered into a contract for a $16.5 million 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 passed strings of false excuses for non-payment. This also 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, by creating 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.
DIMARCO further orchestrated 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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In addition to his prison term, DIMARCO was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $2,384,050.00 in restitution.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Art Crime Team and encourages anyone with information relating to theft, looting, or fraud in the art market to contact the FBI’s Art Crime Team in New York at (212) 384-1000.
These cases are being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Tara M. La Morte and Abigail S. Kurland are in charge of the prosecution.
Jim Margolin, Nicholas Biase