A prominent Florida art dealer has been accused of selling counterfeit works by artists including Jean Michel-Basquiat and Banksy for hundreds of thousands of dollars, a federal criminal complaint has revealed.
Daniel Elie Bouaziz, who ran two galleries on Palm Beach’s exclusive Worth Avenue, reportedly bought cheap reproductions online and passed them off as authentic to unsuspecting customers.
In one deal, he bought a $100 Andy Warhol facsimile and sold it for $85,000 to a confused customer, federal court filings filed in Florida show.
The FBI began monitoring Bouaziz’s activities in 2021 after several patrons alerted them to his alleged wrongdoing.
They told officials that the works of prominent names like pop artists Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring would be worth millions if they were real — and that Bouaziz’s pricing structures made little sense.
Federal agents operating undercover soon bought Bouaziz a fake Warhol for $26,000 and struck an additional $22 million deal before his arrest last week, court filings say.
Agents recorded conversations with Bouaziz at his galleries, where he presented the pieces as ironclad investments.
“I really got you a fantastic price,” the gallerist told them at a meeting over an autographed Warhol “Superman” print. “You can only make money.”
In one of his more ambitious moves, Bouaziz reportedly offered undercover cops a Basquiat he bought for $12 million for €495.
The French national of Algerian descent appeared to have reveled in his proceeds, according to the complaint. The indictment states that he used his lucky breaks to buy luxury brands Lamborghini, Rolex and Cartier.
The criminal complaint notes a total of six alleged victims, each of whom paid tens of thousands of dollars for collaborative reproductions by iconic artists.
A buyer signed for over $120,000 for two pieces that Bouaziz snatched for just $600, according to the complaint.
To allay customers’ suspicions, Bouaziz presented himself as an unimpeachable art appraiser and issued certificates of authenticity.
His attorney, Howard Schumacher, said his client had built a longstanding reputation in Palm Beach as an honest dealer and that art prices were inherently subjective.
Schumacher said he has returned money to unsatisfied customers and has always adhered to that policy.
“He has a tremendous following on the island in a very diverse area,” Schumacher said, adding that he plans to plead not guilty. “This government intervention has had an impact on his reputation and he wants to fix that.”
Bouaziz was released on $500,000 bail on his first court appearance on Friday.
https://nypost.com/2022/05/30/daniel-elie-bouaziz-allegedly-sold-fake-art-in-florida/ Daniel Elie Bouaziz is accused of selling fake art in Florida