A man allegedly selling fake artwork purportedly by Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat was arrested Friday by federal law enforcement officials in New York City after two auction houses reported his attempts to sell the forgeries.
Angel Pereda, 49, of Puebla, Mexico, was arrested Friday by FBI investigators and charged with one count of wire fraud. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.
Pereda allegedly forged ownership papers to prove the authenticity of several pieces of art by Haring and Basquiat, which he hoped to sell for millions of dollars, according to the criminal complaint from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
“As we allege, Mr. Pereda conned art buyers, hoping his victims wouldn’t see the difference between real art and a forgery. He used their trust to his advantage by passing off worthless pieces as priceless works of art,” said FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. in a statement, noting that the bureau’s Art Crime Team investigated the case.
The FBI was first alerted to the forged artwork sometime this year, after an unnamed auction house in New York City was approached by two people in late 2020 trying to sell a vase allegedly made by Haring, the criminal complaint said.
One of the two people “provided provenance paperwork which listed the ‘Pereda Family, Mexico’ as the previous owner.” Investigators worked with the Keith Haring Foundation to determine the vase was not authentic, the criminal complaint said.
Investigators examining bank records found the two people had wired “thousands of dollars” from New York City to a bank account in Pereda’s name, with at least one transfer intended for “purchasing a painting,” the complaint said.
Another unnamed auction house informed the FBI that a third individual tried to sell a painting labeled “Pop Shop” that was allegedly a collaboration between Basquiat and Haring.
It’s not clear where the fake artwork originated. The fake Haring vase and paintings are covered in familiar graphics of the artist’s signature blocky human and animal figures. “Glory Boys Kingdom,” the alleged Basquiat painting, was named after another famous painting by the artist. Works by the two artists regularly sell for millions — in 2017, a real Basquiat piece called “Untitled” sold for a record $110.5 million.
Basquiat died in 1988 and Haring in 1990.
One of the unidentified parties working with the FBI told Pereda that he found out the Basquiat painting was fake, but would still try to sell it to a potential buyer for more than $6 million if Pereda could provide more provenance records. Pereda said “he would create a new fictitious provenance so that Individual-1 could successfully resell the forgery,” the criminal complaint said. Within minutes, Pereda allegedly sent the person a Whatsapp message with a picture of another fake Basquiat and more forged ownership records.
The criminal complaint noted that Pereda is also known as Angel Luis Pereda Eguiluz, and had run for political office in Mexico — a man with the same name ran for mayor of San Andrés Cholula in Puebla, Mexico earlier this year.