Friday, August 21, 2009

Big Oops!

Pasquale Iannetti Art Gallery, San Francisco

For a long time I've wondered about the "originals" in this gallery. Now I know - all that glitters and all that jazz. Or, to quote an older adage, let the buyer beware:

(08-21) 07:13 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- The owner of an art gallery in San Francisco's Union Square has been indicted by a federal grand jury on fraud charges for allegedly selling fake Joan Miro limited edition prints, court records show.

Pasquale Iannetti, 69, was indicted Thursday by a grand jury in San Francisco on charges of wire and mail fraud for shipping prints purportedly authorized by Miro, the renowned Spanish Catalan painter and sculptor who died in 1983, from 2001 to 2008.

Iannetti, who runs Pasquale Iannetti Art Galleries, Inc. on Sutter Street, prides himself as a dealer since 1969 in "original prints, paintings and other works of art from the 15th century to the present," according to his Web site.

The Florentine born Iannetti studied economics at the University of Florence and moved to San Francisco in 1969, his Web site said. "Mr. Iannetti is an experienced fine art appraiser and authenticator of works on paper and has appeared on television, radio and newspapers as a commentator on art matters," it said.

Iannetti did not return a call for comment. His attorney was not immediately available today.

Iannetti obtained fake Miro prints from "a co-schemer whose identity is known to the grand jury" and knew that they bore "forged signatures and/or false numerical or other markings making them appear as if they had been part of an original limited edition, or had been prepared for the artist's own use," the indictment said.

Iannetti told his employees and customers that the prints he and his gallery were selling were original limited edition prints that had been authorized by Miro, authorities said.

He also provided sales invoices, appraisal and authenticity reports and certificates of authenticity and appraisal, knowing that the documents "contained false representations about the authenticity and origin of the prints," the indictment said.

According to federal prosecutors, Iannetti acquired the fake prints from the co-schemer on a consignment basis and paid that person a share of the proceeds.

He was indicted on eight counts of mail fraud for allegedly shipping fake Miro prints to customers across the country. He was also indicted on seven counts of wire fraud for credit-card transactions at his gallery or wire transfers in amounts ranging from $3,600 to $17,902, the indictment said.

Federal prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of any proceeds from the alleged scheme. The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

E-mail Henry K. Lee at

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