Madison Gallery Owner Sentenced to 57 Months in Prison for Selling Fraudulent Artwork
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that DAVID J. CRESPO, 60, of Guilford, was sentenced today by Senior U.S. District Judge Ellen Bree Burns in New Haven to 57 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for selling fraudulent artwork. According to court documents and statements made in court, CRESPO was an art dealer who operated the Brandon Gallery in Madison. Over the course of several years, CRESPO defrauded customers by falsely representing that artwork he sold were original pieces by Pablo Picasso and original signed lithographs by Marc Chagall. As part of the scheme, CRESPO forged numerous documents in order to provide “authentication” or provenances of the fakes to his victims. On September 3, 2013, CRESPO pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud stemming from the sale of an imitation Marc Chagall lithograph.
The investigation revealed that CRESPO obtained reproductions of original Chagall lithographs, but represented to potential customers that they were, in fact, original lithographs that had been produced through an artistic lithographic method, and under the direction and authority of Marc Chagall.
In January 2010, CRESPO met with an undercover FBI agent at Brandon Gallery. During the course of the conversation, which was recorded, CRESPO and the agent discussed a lithograph known as “The Presentation of Chloe,” which CRESPO represented, among other things, was an “original lithograph” that was part of a limited edition collection made from “stone plates” from which multiple impressions were made from “the same plate.” The agent agreed to purchase the purported lithograph for $2,000.
In May 2010, CRESPO shipped the purported lithograph along with a “Certificate of Authenticity,” which valued the piece at $12,750 “for insurance purposes,” stated that piece was “hand signed by Chagall in crayon after the artist personally examined this particular example,” and represented that “[t]his work came from the collection of Richard Riskin, a longtime friend of the artist.”
In fact, CRESPO had not obtained the purported Chagall lithograph from the estate of Richard Riskin, as no such person existed, and CRESPO knew that the piece was not a limited edition original lithograph manufactured under the artist’s direction using stone plates, but was a photo-mechanical production that was removed from a common edition book.
In November 2010, the FBI conducted a search of the Brandon Gallery and found packages of Chagall prints and practiced Chagall signatures. The investigation revealed that CRESPO defrauded at least 10 victims out of a total of at least $400,000. Judge Burns will issue a restitution order with 90 days. On April 3, 2012, CRESPO was arrested on a criminal complaint. He has been detained since December 31, 2014, when he was found to have violated the conditions of his release and his bond was revoked.
This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Madison Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony E. Kaplan and Liam Brennan.