Florida art dealer arrested after allegedly selling fake Andy Warhol and Banksy works

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In December 2020, a couple happened upon an incredible deal: two original Andy Warhol works for a combined price of $125,000. The first was titled “And I Love You So”; the second was called “Converse Sneakers in Conversation.”

The gallery that sold the pieces to them, Danieli Fine Art in Palm Beach, Fla., allegedly said they were one-of-a-kind works of art.

But federal prosecutors say they were both fakes. The real version of the first, featuring a blue bird flying under hearts and the words “i love you so,” was actually hanging in a museum in Pittsburgh, a probable cause affidavit says, while the second wasn’t even by Warhol.

Now, prosecutors have charged Danieli Fine Art’s owner, Daniel Elie Bouaziz, with fraud and money laundering, alleging he duped customers into purchasing relatively cheap reproductions of works by iconic artists for tens of thousands of dollars apiece. Bouaziz appeared in court Friday and was released on a $500,000 bond.

Bouaziz’s attorney, Howard J. Schumacher, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post late Tuesday. Schumacher told the New York Post that Bouaziz was an honest art dealer and refunded the customers who were dissatisfied.

“He has a tremendous following on the island in an area that is very eclectic,” Schumacher told the New York Post. “This intrusion by the government has had an impact on his reputation and he wants to clear that.”

Danieli Fine Art’s website says the gallery features a wide range of work by famous artists, including Banksy, Warhol, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. But some people who walked into the gallery were suspicious, according to the affidavit, telling the FBI that some of the artwork Bouaziz was marketing was unbelievable. If the Banksy works were real, one witness said, they would be valued at millions of dollars.

Banksy tried to destroy his art after it sold for $1.4 million. The shredded version just went for $25.4 million.

But Bouaziz was selling art for far below the million-dollar mark, prosecutors say, and art enthusiasts were lured by what they thought were low prices. In fact, Bouaziz bought the works for a fraction of what he sold them for, according to the affidavit.

In April 2021, an art collector purchased pieces from Bouaziz that the gallerist said were by Haring, Roy Lichtenstein and Henri Matisse. To the collector, obtaining the works was akin to 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 “looked off” and were probably fake. One of the paintings was much smaller than the original. Another had an incorrect edition number. One of the pieces looked less like the original and more like a print selling on eBay for $535.50.

Another customer paid a $200,000 down payment as they were deciding whether to buy five Warhol pieces from Bouaziz for $860,000, prosecutors say. The works included what Bouaziz described as a screen print titled “Mickey Mouse,” which had a price tag of $240,000 — as well as a screen print titled “Moonwalk,” which went for $75,000, the affidavit states.

In reality, according to prosecutors, Bouaziz purchased the prints for $1,500 each from an online auction business less than a week before trying to resell them to the customer. The customer walked away from the deal, however, and asked for their money back. According to the affidavit, Bouaziz paid back roughly half.

For decades, the famous artist’s painting was hidden from the public. Now it’s part of a Tiffany ad campaign.

Following some of his deals, prosecutors say, Bouaziz laundered the money he received, using it to purchase things like a $10,000 Cartier watch and a Lamborghini.

The FBI also bought artwork from Bouaziz in an undercover operation, making a deal for works by artists including Basquiat, Banksy, Haring and Georgia O’Keeffe, according to the affidavit. Of a Warhol “Superman,” Bouaziz said there was “no other” and boasted that he was selling it at a “fantastic price.” Of a Lichtenstein lithograph, he allegedly said, “I buy about 200 paintings in auction every year and I guarantee my stuff. I mean I am behind my stuff.”

And when trying to sell a painting of a blue dog by George Rodrigue for as low as $48,000, Bouaziz allegedly told the undercover agent: “There, you are going to make money. I’m saying the honest thing.”

All of them were fakes, according to the affidavit.

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