Sep 3, 2013
01:50 PMArts & Entertainment
FBI Sting: If You Bought a Chagall Lithograph from a Madison Dealer, It Might Be a Fake
Mara Lavitt/New Haven Register
In this 2010 file photo, David Crespo, owner of the Brandon Gallery in Madison, stands in front of some of the art he sells, including signed, limited edition Norman Rockwell prints behind him at left.
A former Madison art gallery owner admitted selling fake artwork and pleaded guilty Tuesday to a single count of mail fraud.
David J. Crespo, 59, of Guilford, owned the Brandon Gallery in Madison. He was charged in August 2012 with 12 counts of selling customers fake artwork that he had passed off as original works by Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall.
According to a press release from Deirdre M. Daly, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Kimberly K. Mertz, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the investigation into Crespo dated back to January 2010, when the gallery owner met with an undercover FBI agent who was wearing a wire.
Crespo is accused of peddling “original signed lithographs” by Chagall that he said were worth more than $12,000. According to the FBI, he was really selling simple “prints” with forged signatures.
“According to court documents and statements made in court, Marc Chagall is widely considered to be among the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th Century, and original lithographs of his work can be of substantial valuable,” the U.S. attorney’s office said in a press release. “An original lithograph is an authorized reproduction of a piece of artwork, map, or text that has been created using a distinctive printing process. They may be signed by the artist or author and, depending on their condition, can be of substantial value. Unlike other reproduction techniques that rely on the negative image being etched or raised on the print, lithography uses a smooth surface, typically, stone tablets or a metal plate, to transfer the image.”