Banksy forgers sentenced to community service
The pair who sold fake prints claiming they were by the graffiti artist have also been banned from selling anything on the internet for five years
By Martin Bailey. Web only
Published online: 25 August 2010
Two men who sold fake Banksy prints were given a 12-month suspended sentence in July, at Kingston Crown Court, in west London. Grant Champkins-Howard, 44, of South Croydon, and Lee Parker, 45, of Eastbourne, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud. They were also banned from selling anything on the internet for five years and ordered to undertake 240 hours of community service.
The British graffiti artist Banksy, being anonymous, may have appeared a particularly easy target for fraudsters, since he would presumably be unwilling to appear in court.
Lawyer Richard Mandel, prosecuting, said Howard and Parker were “keen Banksy enthusiasts who exploited the weaknesses of an anonymous artist”. They sold the fakes in Britain and abroad, mainly through eBay. The men had identified an opportunity, after prices of authentic prints rose by up to tens of thousands of pounds.
Howard and Parker set up multiple eBay accounts, PayPal accounts and email addresses, allowing them to carry on the deception over a long period. Many buyers were given fake provenance documents, including sales receipts, bank statements and emails purportedly from Pictures on Walls, the company used by Banksy to produce and market prints. The emails detailed sales histories and appeared to authenticate the fakes. If challenged by a buyer, the two men would simply refund the money. They also participated in online discussion groups, duping other members into buying their prints.
During the investigation, more than 120 fakes were recovered, half from the men’s home addresses and the remainder from victims. If genuine, these would have been worth over £200,000. The fake prints included Golf Sale sold to an American for £6,500, Monkey Queen sold to a Spaniard for £4,500, and Turf War sold to a British buyer for £1,850.
Detective Constable Ian Lawson, of the Metropolitan Police Art and Antiques Unit, said after the case: “This was a lucrative and unscrupulous scam in which the culprits had no qualms about ripping off collectors.” An eBay spokesman commented: “We are delighted to hear of the sentences, having worked closely with the Metropolitan Police since September 2008.” The police were also in close contact with Pictures on Walls.
Lawson believes the fraud has had a negative impact on the art market: “The harm done by the defendants goes beyond the immediate losses to their individual victims. Buyers’ confidence is vastly important in the legitimate collectors’ market in art. When fraudsters infiltrate fakes, that confidence is dented, with an inevitable [negative] effect on prices.”
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