Fake Chihuly Glass Dealer Sentenced to 5 Months in Prison

Image: Fake Chihuly Glass Dealer Sentenced to 5 Months in Prison Left, one of many fake Dale Chihuly glass sculptures sold by Michael Little, at right.

Friday, 22 Nov 2013 09:33 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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A Washington man who passed off generic glass work as the work of renowned Seattle-based glass artist Dale Chihuly was sentenced to five months behind bars.

Michael Little faced up to 15 months in prison after he made thousands of dollars by selling fake Chihuly work on the Internet, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik on Wednesday sentenced Little to a 5-month federal prison term, another five months in a halfway house and three years of court supervision. 

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"This defendant was persistent and creative in his fraud that recycled ordinary glass into costly works of art," a statement by U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan read. "Fraud schemes like this one target all artists and damage confidence in the online marketplace."

Chihuly is credited with revolutionizing the Studio Glass movement and lifting the perception of the glass work from craft to fine art. He is internationally known for his architectural installations. His glass work and collections have appeared in more than 200 museum collections around the world.

The Associated Press reported that Little obtained the generic glass art on eBay and then resold it as Chihuly's work, defrauding customers of thousands of dollars. 

Little's customers told federal investigators that they trusted him in that the work was authentic.

"I'm very sorry for all of the actions that I did and everything I told people to try to get them into buying this art glass," Little said before his sentencing. The sentence was part of a plea deal crafted after he was caught selling in April.

One of the people Little victimized, Jim Coombes, told the Associated Press that he spent $25,000 for about 100 pieces. Coombes said he only learned the items were inauthentic when he tried to donate them to Gonzaga University where he worked.

"I knew I'd been taken, but you get over it and get on with your life," Coombes said.

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