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Art dealer caught in money laundering scheme, allegedly sold $495 print to FBI agent for $12 million

Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Palm Beach, Florida, art dealer Daniel Elie Bouaziz plead guilty to laundering money he obtained through selling counterfeit artwork, according to the Department of Justice.

Authorities say that the owner of two art galleries in Palm Beach knowingly engaged in, and attempted to engage in, a transaction of over $10,000 through a financial institution that affects interstate commerce.

Bouaziz violated a wire fraud statute when he attempted to transfer money from the unlawful sale of counterfeit art.

In October 2021, Bouaziz sold counterfeit artwork purported to be by artist Andy Warhol out of his galleries, telling the customer that he was looking to receive between $75,000 and $240,000 for the counterfeit piece. He told the customer that the art was "authentic, original Warhol pieces," with some even being signed by the artist.

The customer paid $200,000 as a down payment, which Bouaziz wired to other accounts of his.

In July 2022, Art Net reported that Bouaziz was on the receiving end of an FBI raid at one of his Palm Beach galleries over his counterfeit schemes.

The report says that Bouaziz would order inexpensive prints or knockoff art from websites and then sell them at extremely inflated prices. This includes a counterfeit piece claimed to be by renowned artist Jean-Michael Basquait that cost the dealer just $495, which was then sold for $12 million.

Another alleged piece was a $485 "Liechtenstein," which was sold for $25,000.

The customers for both counterfeit art pieces were allegedly undercover FBI agents, who then had the artwork investigated to determine it was not original.

Bouaziz is said to have provided fake records of ownership for the art, along with false edition numbers and counterfeit artist signatures, according to the original indictment, which included mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering.

The DOJ says that the gallery owner also provided prospective buyers with certificates of authenticity that included false assertions and appraisals, which Bouaziz stamped with his approval, using a block that read “Daniel Bouaziz, Certified International Fine Art Appraiser.”

The buyers would often have to pick the pieces up from the Florida galleries themselves, or have them delivered either "by hand" or via interstate carrier.

Customers of Bouaziz reportedly began demanding refunds but were unable to get their money back.

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