But federal prosecutors say they were fakes. The real version of the first photo, which shows a blue bird flying under hearts and the words “I love you so much,” was actually hanging in a museum in Pittsburgh, a possible reason an affidavit says, while the second wasn’t even from Warhol.
Now, prosecutors Accused Daniel Elie Bouaziz, owner of Danieli Fine Art, has fraud and money laundering, alleging that he deceived customers into buying relatively cheap copies of works by creative artists for tens of thousands of dollars apiece. Bouaziz appeared in court on Friday and was released on bail of $500,000.
Bouaziz’s lawyer, Howard J. Schumacher, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Washington Post late Tuesday. Schumacher He told the New York Post That Bouaziz was an honest art dealer and refunded dissatisfied clients.
“He has a massive following on the island in a very selective region,” Schumacher told the New York Post. This interference by the government has had an impact on his reputation and he wants to make it clear.
The Danieli Fine Arts website says the exhibition features a A wide range of works by famous artistsincluding Banksy, Warhol, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. But some of the people who entered the gallery were suspicious, according to an affidavit, who told the FBI that some of the artwork Bouaziz had been shopping was incredible. One witness said that if Banksy’s business had been real, it would have been worth millions of dollars.
But prosecutors say Bouaziz was selling the artwork for well below the million-dollar mark, and art enthusiasts were drawn to what they thought were low prices. In fact, Bouaziz bought the business for a fraction of what he sold, according to the affidavit.
In April 2021, an antiques collector from Bouaziz bought pieces that the gallery maker said were made by Haring, Roy Lichtenstein and Henri Matisse. To the collector, obtaining works was like finding the “Holy Grail,” according to the affidavit. Together, they cost $290,000.
But then the collector showed the pieces to a different gallery in New York, whose director said they were “looking away” and might have been fake. One of the paintings was much smaller than the original. Another has an incorrect edition number. One of the pieces looked less like the original and more like a print that sold on eBay for $535.50.
other customer They paid $200,000 in down payment while deciding to buy five Warhols from Bouaziz for $860,000, prosecutors say. The works included what Bouaziz described as a screen print of “Mickey Mouse,” which was $240,000 — as well as a screen print of “Moon Walk,” which was worth $75,000, the affidavit said.
In fact, according to prosecutors, Bouaziz bought the prints for $1,500 each from an online auction company less than a week before trying to sell them back to the customer. However, the client walked away from the deal, requesting a refund. According to the affidavit, Bouaziz paid about half the amount.
After some of his deals, prosecutors say, Bouaziz laundered the money he had, and used it to buy things like a $10,000 Cartier watch and a Lamborghini.
The FBI also purchased artwork from Bouaziz in an undercover operation, striking a deal for works by artists including Basquiat, Banksy, Haring and Georgia O’Keeffe, according to the affidavit. Of Warhol’s “Superman,” Bouaziz said “there is no other” and boasted that he was selling it “at a fantastic price.” He allegedly said of the Liechtenstein lithograph, “I buy about 200 paintings at auction every year and I guarantee my stuff. I mean, I’m behind my stuff.”
And when he tried to sell a painting of a blue dog by George Rodrigue for as low as $48,000, Bouaziz allegedly told the secret agent, “There, you’ll make money. I’m saying the honest thing.”
All of them were fakes, according to the affidavit.