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Embattled Dealer Inigo Philbrick Indicted on Wire Fraud, Identity Theft Charges

Inigo Philbrick, a controversial young dealer who has been accused of leading a scheme worth millions of dollars, has been indicted by a grand jury in the Southern District Court of New York on counts of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Philbrick, who is reportedly currently in a prison in rural Oklahoma after having been arrested in Vanuatu earlier this year, must now forfeit any property gained through his businesses.

According to the grand jury’s indictment, Philbrick “willfully and knowingly” led a scheme that involved “interstate email communications and other means,” as well as “false information and false documents” and “material omissions regarding the sale, ownership, and provenance of artworks.”

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Exterior of Sotheby's in New York.

The indictment, which was filed on Monday, also says that Philbrick “knowingly transferred, possessed, and used, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person” during the course of his transactions.

Monday’s indictment marks yet another dramatic turn in a controversy that has involved several prominent lawsuits involving parties who claim that Philbrick is withholding artworks. The legal scandal kicked off last year, after the German firm Fine Art Partners alleged in a Florida court that Philbrick had “refused” to return millions of dollars in artworks, including a Yayoi Kusama installation.

That suit led to the filing of others, including one concerning a Rudolf Stingel painting that Philbrick had allegedly sold without the knowledge of Guzzini Properties Ltd., the art-collecting company that had been involved in the dealer’s purchase of the work. A British court also froze Philbrick’s assets.

“There were actual transactions taking place, and there were real assets being acquired and sold, but it was all being done against a web of lies,” Judd Grossman, a lawyer representing several parties involved in the lawsuits, told ARTnews in a 2019 profile of Philbrick.

Philbrick, who previously operated a gallery with spaces in Miami and London, disappeared as the lawsuits began cropping up, and many began to speculate about where he might have fled. Many had perceived him as an up-and-comer in the market sphere, thanks to his early mentorship from Jay Jopling, the founder of London’s White Cube gallery.

Last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had located Philbrick on the Pacific island of Vanuatu and detained him. Representatives for the FBI said that Philbrick’s scheme had cost collectors some $20 million.

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