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Long IslandCrime

John Re of East Hampton pleads guilty to phony art scheme

An East Hampton man pleaded guilty Monday at federal court in Manhattan to defrauding victims of $2.5 million in a nine-year scheme to sell phony art purportedly created by masters such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, prosecutors said.

John Re, 54, faces up to 20 years in prison and also must forfeit $2.5 million and not sell the former USS Quest, a submarine he acquired with the proceeds of the fraud, until the debt is paid off, according to court records.

From 2005 until this year, Re allegedly invented false provenance for dozens of paintings and sketches by famous artists, telling some victims of the scam that the art had been found in a home belonging to a former acquaintance of the artists.

Prosecutors said that he continued to peddle the phony art after works he sold had been repeatedly deauthenticated by forensic experts, and on at least one occasion threatened a victim who confronted him with violence and claimed an organized crime connection.

A lawyer for Re did not respond to a request for comment late on Monday. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 10, 2015, by U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel. He was first charged in June.

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