Art Dealer Sentenced to Over 2 Years in Prison for Laundering Money Made Selling Counterfeit Art

Federal authorities said that a Florida art dealer who offered discounts on works by master painters including Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, and Henri Matisse that he claimed were originals was sentenced to more than two years in federal prison for operating a counterfeit scam.

The man, Daniel Elie Bouaziz, 69, ran the counterfeit scam out of multiple art galleries he owned in Palm Beach County, Florida. According to court documents, he was sentenced on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Miami to 27 months in federal prison, three years of supervised release, and a $15,000 fine.

According to the records, Mr. Bouaziz pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering in February in exchange for the dismissal of 16 further accusations by federal prosecutors.

On Tuesday night, it was unable to reach Mr. Bouaziz or his attorney for comment.

The New York Times confirms the news at their official Twitter account:

Prosecutors claim that Mr. Bouaziz, a French and Israeli citizen who was born in Algeria, entered the country with a B-2 visitor’s visa. They said that the items he had displayed as genuine artwork were actually low-quality copies that he had purchased from online auctions. After an investigation that involved the issuance of search warrants at his galleries, an examination of bank records, and undercover purchases of art that authorities believed to be fake, he was charged in June.

According to the federal complaint, Mr. Bouaziz dealt with art through three businesses: VIP Rentals L.L.C., Danieli Fine Art, and Galerie Danieli. A variety of well-known artists, including Monet, Rodin, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Willem de Kooning, are shown on the Danieli Fine Art website .

However, it was fake Andy Warhols that landed Mr. Bouaziz in jail.

On Oct. 25, 2021, Mr. Bouaziz sold what he had claimed were “authentic, original Warhol pieces,” some of them “signed by the artist,” to an unwitting customer, federal prosecutors said. The customer gave Mr. Bouaziz a $200,000 down payment, which he then wired to other accounts. According to court documents, Mr. Bouaziz then took five artworks to the buyer’s house.

However, they stated in a sentencing letter that Mr. Bouaziz “knew some of the pieces he sold were not genuine.” Although federal prosecutors did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday evening, they said so in the memo. They said that he once received $25,000 from an undercover agent for a piece of fake art.

They went on to say that Mr. Bouaziz had won the hearts of many in Palm Beach with his generosity, his expensive cars, and his invites to lunches and art exhibits. Prosecutors said that his benevolence, however, concealed a more sinister truth. “Bouaziz painted a picture of himself that he wanted others to see and believe,” they claimed.

On August 16, a restitution hearing will take place.

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