The Long Island woman who fooled the art world by pawning off paintings by an unknown artist from Queens as the work of Modernist masters was sentenced to time served on Tuesday, more than five years after her actions helped lead to $80 million in fraudulent sales and the demise of New York’s oldest gallery.
Between 1994 and 2009 prosecutors have said that the woman, Glafira Rosales, a little-known art dealer on Long Island, and her boyfriend came up with 60 pieces that they marketed as previously unknown works by artists including Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. In fact, they had all been created by a Chinese immigrant who used a garage in Queens as his studio.
In her sentencing, the judge, Katherine Polk Failla of Federal District Court in Manhattan, cited defense arguments that Ms. Rosales had been intimidated and abused by her former boyfriend, who is also charged in the case and whom the defense described in court papers as the mastermind of the scheme. She also feared being separated from her daughter, according to the defense.
“Ms. Rosales, I’m not putting you back in jail,” Judge Failla said.
Ms. Rosales, 60, had served three months in jail. She will be subject to three years of supervised release including 90 days of home detention, the judge said. She will also pay restitution in an amount to be determined. Her boyfriend, Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz, was arrested in 2014 in Spain but his extradition has been blocked.
During the audacious fraud, which spanned 15 years, Ms. Rosales sold the bogus works to galleries in Manhattan, including the venerable Knoedler & Company on the Upper East Side. When the scheme came to light, experts agreed that it was the largest art fraud in modern memory.
Knoedler, founded in 1846, went out of business just ahead of lawsuits by prominent collectors over the fakes. In 2013 Ms. Rosales pleaded guilty to nine counts of conspiracy, fraud and other crimes. Knoedler has said it never realized the works were fake.
In the case of Ms. Rosales, the sentencing guidelines, which take into account the seriousness of the offense and the offender’s criminal history, had suggested a prison term of 151 to 181 months. But her lawyer, Bryan C. Skarlatos, asked for leniency, saying Mr. Bergantiños Diaz had coerced Ms. Rosales into assisting him.
“He hit her,” Mr. Skarlatos told the judge. “He broke her nose, he left scars on her body.”
A prosecutor, Patrick Egan, did not object to the request for time served, saying Ms. Rosales had provided “instrumental” evidence, telling investigators how the fraudulent paintings had been made, where they had been made, what fake stories had been used to sell them and how those tales had originated.
Prosecutors said that Mr. Bergantiños Diaz, met and befriended the forger, Pei-Shen Qian in the 1980s as he was painting on the streets. Mr. Qian mimicked the varied styles and forged the various names of the Abstract Expressionists he copied and Mr. Bergantiños Diaz treated the works to give them the false patina of age. The artist, who has also been charged, fled to China. He has insisted he did not realize his work was being passed off as original.
Ms. Rosales told galleries that the works came from a mystery collector who wished to remain anonymous, and her story and the artworks were embraced to an extent that illustrated how vulnerable the art market could be to any sophisticated fraud.
The most rigorous examination of flaws in the authentication process came last year during the trial in a lawsuit filed by Domenico De Sole, the chairman of Sotheby’s, and his wife Eleanore, who had bought a forged Rothko from Knoedler for $8.3 million.
The witnesses included a parade of experts, including some who said that the gallery had misrepresented their opinions of certain works. Christopher Rothko, the artist’s son, said his name had inaccurately been included on a list of experts who had viewed the bogus work. And before the extent of the forgeries became clear, some experts endorsed the fake paintings while receiving undisclosed consulting fees from Knoedler. Others denied authenticating bogus works but nonetheless acknowledged they had expressed enthusiasm for them.
The suit against Knoedler was settled for an undisclosed amount just as the gallery’s former owner and president were set to testify.