Thursday, October 10, 2002

QUEENS ART FOUNDRY OWNER CHARGED IN $140,000 ART FRAUD; ALLEGEDLY CAST COPIES OF ORIGINAL METAL SCULPTURES WITHOUT AUTHORIZATION AND SOLD THEM TO UNSUSPECTING COLLECTORS AS GENUINE ORIGINALS

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown today announced that a Queens foundry owner has been indicted on charges of defrauding two wealthy art collectors of $140,000 by selling them copies of original metal sculptures by three sculptors which he purportedly claimed were genuine, authorized originals but which actually were unauthorized copies that were worthless.

District Attorney Brown said, "The defendant, a skilled craftsman with a reputation for excellence in the casting of bronze sculpture, is alleged to have criminally simulated works of art by three gifted sculptors with an intent to make them appear to have an antiquity, rarity, source or authorship which they did not in fact possess. He is alleged to have made additional copies beyond the number ordered by the sculptors who commissioned the castings of their works of art, to have sold these unauthorized ‘extras’ to private collectors misrepresenting them as authentic reproductions and to have retained the proceeds for himself."

District Attorney Brown identified the defendant as Brian Ramnarine, 48, of 63-33 98th Place in Rego Park who owns and operates the Bronze Foundry and Gallery at 25-20 43rd Avenue in Long Island City. He is charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree and Criminal Simulation and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

The investigation began in November, 2001 when the sculptors’ attorneys notified the Queens District Attorney’s Economic Crimes Bureau about their clients’ allegations.

According to the charges, between March 1, 1998 and August 31, 1999, the defendant engaged in schemes to defraud unwitting art collectors.

In one scheme, Ramnarine allegedly sold to a New Jersey art collector three unauthorized reproductions which he had cast and which he represented were true copies of works by sculptor Saint Clair Cemin, defrauding the victim of about $47,500. The reproductions were copies of Cemin works entitled "Woman and Lion," which has a market value of about $25,000, and "Rosslyn Editions Candelabrum," which has a market value of $5,000 and a Cemin bronze copy of a marble work, "Chimera Loquendi," which has a market value of about $30,000.

In another alleged scheme, Ramnarine allegedly sold to a Bayside, Queens art collector nine unauthorized reproductions which he had cast and which he represented were true copies of works by sculptors Joel Fisher and Kenny Scharf, defrauding the victim of about $92,500. The alleged fakes were copies of three Fisher pieces -- "Agrobat," "Camelsland" and "Giraffaffe" -- and six Scharf pieces -- "Bird in Space," "Bloopzipbloop," "Turnstar 2001," "Zipzambell," "Up and Monuments" and "Xinyang Locknose." Each of the pieces has a market value of about $25,000.

The investigation was conducted by Detective Evelyn Alegre of the District Attorney’s Detective Bureau under the supervision of

Lieutenant Robert Burke and the overall supervision of Chief Edward T. Brady and Deputy Chief Lawrence J. Festa

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Investigative Assistant District Attorney Bernadette K. Ford of the District Attorney's Economic Crimes Bureau under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Brian J. Mich, Bureau Chief, and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney for Investigations Peter A. Crusco and Assistant District Attorney Linda M. Cantoni, Counsel to the Investigations Division.

It should be noted that an indictment is merely an accusation and that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.