Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Art dealer to plead guilty in fake $2M Picasso

A West Hollywood art and antiques dealer agreed Tuesday to plead guilty next month to federal fraud charges related to the $2 million sale of a fake Pablo Picasso pastel, prosecutors said.

In a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles, Tatiana Khan, 70, agreed to enter the plea to making false statements to the FBI and witness tampering, according to Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

She agreed to fully reimburse the pruchaser of the ersatz Picasso -- identified only by the initials V.S. -- and to give the federal government a valuable impressionist painting to help settle her debt, Mrozek said.

Khan, owner-operator of the Chateau Allegre gallery on La Cienega Boulevard, admitted that she paid an art restorer $1,000 to create a reproduction of work by Picasso -- a 1902 pastel called "La Femme Au Chapeau Bleu," or "The Woman in the Blue Hat," Mrozek said.

Khan then sold the supposed Picasso for $2 million, telling the buyer that the bogus painting was worth much more than that, according to Mrozek. The buyer was told the price was low because the painting had come from the Malcolm Forbes family, which wanted to keep the sale private, he said.

According to the plea agreement, Khan admitted falsely telling an FBI agent that she had obtained the drawing from an acquaintance, Mrozek said.

Khan also admitted that she told the art restorer to lie to the FBI by saying that she
only did restoration work for Khan and did not do any copying work, he said.

Khan is expected to appear before U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real on May 6 to enter her guilty pleas to the two felony counts, Mrozek said.

After she pleads guilty, Khan will face a maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison, although the plea agreement proposes a prison sentence of no more than 21 months, according to Mrozek.

As part of her plea agreement, Khan agreed to make full restitution to the purchaser of the fake Picasso, Mrozek said.

Khan will also forfeit an abstract a painting by the abstract impressionist painter Willem de Kooning that she had purchased with some of the proceeds of her fraud, Mrozek said. the federal government will auction off the de Kooning and use the proceeds to reimburse the victim and pay for the prosecution, he said.

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