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Sands Point woman charged in fake art scheme

Glafira Rosales, a Sands Point art dealer, faces

Glafira Rosales, a Sands Point art dealer, faces charges of wire fraud and money laundering in what federal authorities say was a $30 million scheme to sell counterfeit paintings she claimed were by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. Credit: The New York Times

A wealthy Sands Point art dealer suspected in a massive counterfeiting fraud that fooled some of Manhattan's top galleries was charged Tuesday with a double-barreled scam -- selling fake art from famous painters and hiding $12.5 million in profits from the IRS.

Glafira Rosales, 56, who gained a reputation in the 1990s for selling a trove of previously unknown abstract expressionist paintings by artists like Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, faces up to 34 years in federal prison on charges of filing false tax returns and hiding offshore accounts.

The charges focus on 2006 to 2008, when Rosales allegedly sold a dozen paintings for $14 million to two galleries, claiming she was acting on behalf of clients in Spain and Switzerland.

In fact, "at least several" of the paintings were counterfeit, her story about clients was phony and Rosales actually hid the proceeds in foreign accounts she controlled, the criminal complaint states.

"Glafira Rosales gave new meaning to the phrase 'artful dodger' by avoiding taxes on millions of dollars in income from dealing in fake artworks for fake clients," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

Rosales, who faces multiple civil lawsuits from buyers of allegedly fake art, was denied bail during Tuesday's hearing in federal court in Manhattan, despite offering to post her $2.6 million Sands Point home.

Prosecutors said in a bail memo that additional charges alleging art fraud are likely.

But her lawyer, Steven Kartagener, asserted that many experts still vouch for the authenticity of the art, and said she will plead not guilty. "She is fully prepared to defend herself," he said.

Rosales came to the United States from Mexico in 1986 and became a citizen in 2009, according to the complaint.

Two galleries that bought altogether 63 pieces of art from her were not identified in court papers, but one of them was the now defunct Knoedler & Co., one of the oldest fine art galleries in New York City, according to published reports in The New York Times and Vanity Fair.

Kartagener said it's hard to believe that a single master forger was able to master the style of not one but several art legends well enough to fool art sophisticates into parting with millions.

The complaint offered no clue as to the identity of the alleged forger.

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