Art Fraud in New Orleans

Today’s Times-Picayune has the story of a Mother and Son who “invented” artists to help sell cheap Chinese paintings from wholesale distributors. The pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. From the story:

Constance “Connie” Breithoff, 60, and Christopher Breithoff, 35, both of Covington, admitted in federal court on Wednesday to misrepresenting their galleries’ artwork. They would buy inexpensive Chinese paintings from wholesale distributors and then market and sell them, at a large profit, as works created by Louisiana artists.

Specifically, the mother-son art dealers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Each now faces a $250,000 fine, as much as five years in prison and three years of supervision after prison. They were charged by the U.S. attorney’s office on Sept. 17 and are scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 28 by U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon.

The mother and son would mail a certificate of authenticity, along with a description of the fictional artists, to their customers after each purchase.

In addition to owning the Barlow Art Gallery and Transitions in Mandeville, the family operated a Barlow gallery in the French Quarter at 805 Royal St. from 1999 to 2005.

This mirrors in some ways the concerns with the buying of art at auction on cruises a few months ago. Do not buy art as a tourist, if you are spending more than a thousand dollars, make sure you educate yourself about the dealer and the artist.

If you bought a work of art in New Orleans by an artist named Falgot, S.A.M., Shanta, or Michel, you may want to contact the U.S. Attorney’s office, victim witness coordinator at 504-680-3000.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

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