A pastor in Miami who tried to sell five fake art pieces by British artist Damian Hirst to an undercover cop was convicted on Tuesday.
Kevin Sutherland, 46, was convicted of second-degree grand larceny by a jury in Manhattan, and could face up to seven years in prison when he is sentenced on May 19. The sentencing judge, Justice Bonnie G. Wittner, has the authority to give him as little as probation, The New York Times reported
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Sutherland's lawyer Sam Talkin said he and his client would "look into all of our options as far as an appeal."
In 2010, Sutherland became interested in trading "cowboy art" on eBay. The pastor at nondenominational Mosaic Miami Church found what he thought were Hirst dot prints from Byron Grace, a lawyer in California, in August of that year, and resold them in Florida for a $7,000 profit.
Grace, however, was just a pseudonym for Vincent Lopreto, a serial art forger.
Sutherland bought five more pieces of art from Lopreto and attempted to sell one to Sotheby's New York in December 2012.
"I thought I was very fortunate," Sutherland told the jury. He was told the piece could net as much as $100,000.
In late January, Sotheby's told Sutherland Mr. Hirst's studio could not confirm the authenticity of the work, and the deal fell through. Sutherland maintains that the dealer did not use the word "forgery" or make it explicit that the work may be counterfeit.
Hirst's studio tipped off the police, and two days before the Sotheby's deal fell through, undercover police officer Michael Dorto emailed Sutherland inquiring about purchasing the pieces. The day Sotheby's called off the deal, Sutherland responded to the inquiry and sold the pieces to Dorto. Sutherland said he "could not warranty anything" besides providing the authentication letters that came with the pieces when he bought them.
Artist Damain Hirst is famous for many works, including a shark preserved in formaldehyde, a diamond-encrusted human skull, and "spin" paintings. Some of the forged works that Sutherland attempted to sell were imitation spin paintings, which are so easy to copy that Hirst himself often has assistants produce them.
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