Angel Pereda, 49, of Mexico, was taken into custody in New York and charged with wire fraud after prosecutors accused him of trying to sell artworks that he falsely claimed had been created by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York announced on Friday.
Prosecutors said that on at least one occasion, Mr. Pereda created and sent new fake provenances to an intermediary in New York claiming that a painting was by Basquiat, in the hopes that it could be sold for millions of dollars.
Basquiat’s 1982 work “Untitled” sold for $110.5 million at auction in 2017.
William F. Sweeney Jr., an assistant director at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said in a statement, “Mr. Pereda conned art buyers, hoping his victims wouldn’t see the difference between real art and a forgery.”
Mr. Pereda did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors said Mr. Pereda’s actions occurred sometime in 2020 and 2021.
According to a criminal complaint unsealed on Friday, employees at multiple New York auction houses were approached by people seeking to sell artworks — including a vase and paintings — purportedly created by Keith Haring and owned by Mr. Pereda.
The Keith Haring Foundation helped investigators determine that the artworks had not actually been created by Haring, an investigator wrote in the complaint. (Haring rocketed to fame with his graphic talents and subway drawings before his death in 1990.)
Investigators also said they discovered that Mr. Pereda had consigned a painting to a person who was going to attempt to sell the work for more than $6 million. The work was titled “Glory Boys Kingdom,” and Mr. Pereda had falsely represented it as having been painted by Basquiat. (Basquiat’s paintings dealt with issues like colonialism, capitalism and the legacy of slavery. He died in 1988.)
Working at the direction of the F.B.I., the intermediary communicated with Mr. Pereda about needing to draft new provenance documents that would convince the potential buyer of the work’s authenticity, and, according to the complaint, Mr. Pereda obliged.
“The alleged fakes have little or no value, except potentially as evidence of the alleged crime,” Audrey Strauss, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement.
Prosecutors said the F.B.I.’s art crime team had assisted with the investigation, and noted that it is still ongoing.
Susan Beachy contributed research.