Score:   1
Docket Number:   SD-FL  1:20-cr-20164
Case Name:   USA v. Righter
  Press Releases:
Miami – Today, a federal judge in Miami sentenced 43-year-old Philip Righter, of California, to five years in prison for running a scheme in which he tried to dupe prominent art businesses, including one South Florida gallery, into spending millions of dollars on forgeries of works by renowned contemporary artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.   

Ariana Fajardo Orshan, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.

Righter’s scheme was this:  He would buy art forgeries at online marketplaces and auction sites.  Once he had the forgeries, Righter tried to make them appear legitimate by creating letters that falsely certified their authenticity.  For example, he created letters that appeared to be from “The Estate of Keith Haring” and the “Authentication Committee of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.” In fact, they were not. Righter designed and purchased embossers bearing the names of the estate and foundation for Haring and Basquiat. He stamped the forged letters with the custom embossers, trying to enhance the look of legitimacy. Righter forged the signatures of representatives of the estate and foundation on the letters.

Righter also created elaborate backstories to establish the “provenance” of the forged artworks. He forged documents to show links between the artworks, Righter’s family, a Wisconsin art museum, and a prominent New York City gallery. Righter told one prospective buyer that he had donated a number of his artworks to his Ivy League alma mater, which was a lie.

Once Righter had the forged artworks, forged documents, and false stories in place, he offered, directly and through brokers, to sell the forged works to galleries, auction houses, and others. In one instance, after a Miami gallery owner showed interest in some work, Righter (who was in Los Angeles) shipped a number of the forgeries to South Florida, where the FBI ultimately seized them. Righter’s asking price for these forgeries: $1,056,000. He directed the gallery owner to wire the money to Righter’s bank account. 

Agents with FBI’s Art Crime Team uncovered Righter’s coast-to-coast scheme, which resulted in the filing of two federal cases against him -- one in the Southern District of Florida (the “Miami case”) and one in the Central District of California (the “Los Angeles case”). The Los Angeles case was transferred to Miami, where the two prosecutions were consolidated for plea and sentencing proceedings.  

On March 11, 2020, Righter pled guilty to two counts in the Miami case: mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. (Case No. 19-20370-CR-Cooke). Today, Righter pled guilty in Miami federal court to three counts in the Los Angeles case: wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and tax fraud. (Case No. 20-20164-CR-Cooke). United States District Court Judge Marcia G. Cooke sentenced Righter to five years’ imprisonment in each case. The sentences will run concurrently. A consolidated restitution hearing is set for September 30, 2020, at 10 a.m. 

U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan commended the investigative efforts of the FBI’s Art Crime Team. Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Browne prosecuted the Miami case.  

You may find a copy of this press release on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.

You may find related court documents and information on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Miami – Today, in federal court in Miami, a 43-year-old Los Angeles man pled guilty to defrauding a South Florida art gallery by trying to sell forgeries of works by renowned contemporary artists Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat to the gallery’s owner for more than $1 million.   

Ariana Fajardo Orshan, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.

According to court records, Philip Righter’s fraud scheme started with buying art forgeries on-line, at marketplaces and auction sites.  Once he had the fakes, Righter tried to make them appear legitimate by creating letters that falsely certified their authenticity.  For example, he created letters that appeared to be from “The Estate of Keith Haring” and the “Authentication Committee of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.” In fact, they were not. Righter even designed and purchased embossers bearing the names of Haring and Basquiat.  He stamped the fake letters with the custom embossers, trying to sharpen the look of legitimacy.  

With the forgeries and letters in hand, Righter offered to sell the fraudulent art pieces to a South Florida gallery, auction houses, and others.  When the gallery owner showed interest, Righter (who was in Los Angeles) shipped a number of the forgeries to a warehouse in South Florida. Righter’s price for the forgeries was $1,056,000.  He directed the gallery owner to wire the money to Righter’s bank account.   

Righter pled guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. His sentencing hearing is set for May 18, 2020, at 9:30 a.m. before United States District Judge Marcia G. Cooke. Righter faces up to 20 years in prison on the mail fraud charge. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a minimum prison sentence of two years, in addition to whatever Righter receives for mail fraud.    

Righter also faces federal charges in the Central District of California, where he allegedly sold forgeries of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol.

U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan commended the investigative efforts of the FBI’s Art Crime Team. Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Browne is prosecuting this case. 

You may find a copy of this press release on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. You may find related court documents and information on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

On July 19, 2019, Los Angeles resident Philip Righter, 42 years old, was arrested on fraud and identity theft charges in connection with a scheme to sell forged artworks by prominent contemporary artists.  He was indicted on charges of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343; mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341; and aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A(a)(1).  The indictment was unsealed on August 6, 2019.

Ariana Fajardo Orshan, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), made the announcement.

According to the indictment, Righter engaged in a scheme to defraud a South Florida art gallery owner and others by making materially false and fraudulent representations, and by the concealment of material facts, concerning, among other things, the source and authenticity of certain artworks purportedly created by deceased artists K.H. and J.M.B.

Righter is alleged to have acquired forged and fraudulent artworks through, among other sources, the eBay online marketplace.  In order to make the forged and fraudulent artworks appear authentic, Righter created fraudulent letters certifying their authenticity.  These fraudulent letters bore the names of legitimate representatives of the artists’ estates.

In furtherance of the scheme, Righter also designed and purchased custom-made embossers bearing the names of K.H. and J.M.B., which Righter used to stamp the authentication letters to make them appear legitimate.

Righter, personally and through third-party brokers, offered to sell the forged and fraudulent artworks to several potential buyers, including auction houses, the owner of a South Florida art gallery, and others.  According to the indictment, Righter directed the art gallery owner to make a payment of $1,056,000 in exchange for the forged artworks.

Righter was granted a $100,000 bond, following his initial appearance in California.  He was arraigned on the indictment on August 6, 2019, before United States Magistrate Judge Alicia M. Otazo-Reyes in Miami, Florida.  If convicted, Righter can be sentenced to up to 20 years’ imprisonment on the wire fraud and mail fraud charges, and a consecutive, two-year term of imprisonment on each of the aggravated identity theft charges.  Additionally, the court may impose a fine of up to $250,000 on each count alleged in the indictment.

U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan commended the investigative efforts of the FBI Miami Field Division, which was assisted by the FBI Los Angeles Field Division and the Los Angeles Police Department.  U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California for their assistance in this matter.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Browne.

An indictment contains mere allegations.  A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Docket (0 Docs):   https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1688mm8vQ6iYtmUXuLAQvyohmB4U70BXQC6HyZK3HlpI/edit#gid=0
  Last Updated: 2020-11-16 16:41:25 UTC
Description: The fiscal year of the data file obtained from the AOUSC
Format: YYYY

Description: The code of the federal judicial circuit where the case was located
Format: A2

Description: The code of the federal judicial district where the case was located
Format: A2

Description: The code of the district office where the case was located
Format: A2

Description: Docket number assigned by the district to the case
Format: A7

Description: A unique number assigned to each defendant in a case which cannot be modified by the court
Format: A3

Description: A unique number assigned to each defendant in a case which can be modified by the court
Format: A3

Description: A sequential number indicating whether a case is an original proceeding or a reopen
Format: N5

Description: Case type associated with the current defendant record
Format: A2

Description: A concatenation of district, office, docket number, case type, defendant number, and reopen sequence number
Format: A18

Description: A concatenation of district, office, docket number, case type, and reopen sequence number
Format: A15

Description: The status of the defendant as assigned by the AOUSC
Format: A2

Description: A code indicating the fugitive status of a defendant
Format: A1

Description: The date upon which a defendant became a fugitive
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The date upon which a fugitive defendant was taken into custody
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The date when a case was first docketed in the district court
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The date upon which proceedings in a case commenced on charges pending in the district court where the defendant appeared, or the date of the defendant’s felony-waiver of indictment
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: A code used to identify the nature of the proceeding
Format: N2

Description: The date when a defendant first appeared before a judicial officer in the district court where a charge was pending
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: A code indicating the type of legal counsel assigned to a defendant
Format: N2

Description: The title and section of the U.S. Code applicable to the offense committed which carried the highest severity
Format: A20

Description: A code indicating the level of offense associated with FTITLE1
Format: N2

Description: The four digit AO offense code associated with FTITLE1
Format: A4

Description: The four digit D2 offense code associated with FTITLE1
Format: A4

Description: A code indicating the severity associated with FTITLE1
Format: A3

Description: The title and section of the U.S. Code applicable to the offense committed which carried the second highest severity
Format: A20

Description: A code indicating the level of offense associated with FTITLE2
Format: N2

Description: The four digit AO offense code associated with FTITLE2
Format: A4

Description: The four digit D2 offense code associated with FTITLE2
Format: A4

Description: A code indicating the severity associated with FTITLE2
Format: A3

Description: The title and section of the U.S. Code applicable to the offense committed which carried the third highest severity
Format: A20

Description: A code indicating the level of offense associated with FTITLE3
Format: N2

Description: The four digit AO offense code associated with FTITLE3
Format: A4

Description: The four digit D2 offense code associated with FTITLE3
Format: A4

Description: A code indicating the severity associated with FTITLE3
Format: A3

Description: The FIPS code used to indicate the county or parish where an offense was committed
Format: A5

Description: The date of the last action taken on the record
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The date upon which judicial proceedings before the court concluded
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The date upon which the final sentence is recorded on the docket
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The date upon which the case was closed
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The total fine imposed at sentencing for all offenses of which the defendant was convicted and a fine was imposed
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Description: A count of defendants filed including inter-district transfers
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Description: A count of defendants filed excluding inter-district transfers
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Description: A count of original proceedings commenced
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Description: A count of defendants filed whose proceedings commenced by reopen, remand, appeal, or retrial
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Description: A count of defendants terminated including interdistrict transfers
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Description: A count of defendants terminated excluding interdistrict transfers
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Description: A count of original proceedings terminated
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Description: A count of defendants terminated whose proceedings commenced by reopen, remand, appeal, or retrial
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Description: A count of defendants pending as of the last day of the period excluding long term fugitives
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Description: The source from which the data were loaded into the AOUSC’s NewSTATS database
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Description: A sequential number indicating the iteration of the defendant record
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Description: The date the record was loaded into the AOUSC’s NewSTATS database
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: Statistical year ID label on data file obtained from the AOUSC which represents termination year
Format: YYYY

Data imported from FJC Integrated Database
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