Illinois art forger sentenced to 9 years in prison

Lots of interesting things have been happening in the antiques world recently. Since I have a bit more time to write about them during the spring and summer, I will be posting new blog entries twice a week, instead of once — Mondays and Thursdays for the next few weeks. So make sure you come back often and tell your friends about my blog!

Michael Zabrin. Photo courtesy Chicago Tribune

Over the years, I’ve had many opportunities to buy limited edition etchings, lithographs, etc., by big name artists like Marc Chagall, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso. I was always concerned about reproductions that I knew existed (and were even rampant). I didn’t have the knowledge to tell the difference, so I always avoided them. Reproductions of Louis Icart etchings also existed, but in that world I’m an expert, so I’ve dealt in them for over 30 years. Now comes news of the arrest, conviction and sentencing of one of the main culprits in the world of limited editions art — Michael Zabrin of Northbrook, Illinois.

Zabrin was first arrested and convicted in 1992, after pleading guilty to selling $800,000 worth of reproduction “limited edition” prints. One year after his supervised release ended in 1998, he was back at it. According the the grand-jury indictment, from July, 1999 to October, 2007, he and fellow associates, Oswaldo Aulestia-Bach, Elio Bonfiglioli, Patrizia Soliani, and Jerome Bengis, conspired to produce and sell these reproduction prints through various outlets, including eBay and dealers in Florida, New York and Australia.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the fake artwork was sold throughout the world in prestigious galleries in Paris, Tokyo, and Barcelona, for example. Of course, Zabrin included his home state of Illinois, with galleries on Michigan Ave. in Chicago.

Now he’s been sentenced to nine years in prison. That should cool his heels for a while. He’ll be 67 when released, if he serves the full term. One would hope that he will have learned his lesson by that time, but some people seem to have larceny in their genes, so I’m not optimistic. Hopefully, the fear of being imprisoned again will keep him on the straight and narrow.

Leon Amiel, Jr., 39, on right. Photo courtesy Chicago Tribune.

James Kennedy and Leon Amiel, Jr., were associates of Zabrin’s in the fake art schemes. On June 15th, U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall sentenced Amiel to two years in prison for his part. He faced a possible six years, but the judge was lenient, citing “his commitment to family as well as mental problems and a family history of emotional and physical abuse.” Kennedy is due for sentencing this month, after which federal officials will destroy 20,000 fakes. Those that have already been sold will continue to be a problem for years to come.

Rare Louis Icart etching Miss America

Check out my new acquisitions. I just listed a very rare Louis Icart etching, entitled “Miss America”, plus a gorgeous Daum Nancy pink floral vase; a rare Tiffany Studios desk lamp in the Spanish pattern; several fine Daum vases; a Daum lamp; several Galle vases; and several more Tiffany Favrile vases. Soon I’ll be listing a wonderful Tiffany Studios 7-light lily lamp with beautiful shades and a fine patina. Also coming soon will be several wonderful European ceramic items by Clement Massier, Zsolnay and Amphora. Here’s the link.