NEW YORK (CBSMiami/AP) – A Miami pastor has been sentenced to six months in prison for attempting to sell bogus paintings and prints from well-known British artist Damien Hirst.
Kevin Sutherland, 46, was sentenced in the attempted grand larceny case Monday.
Sutherland was convicted last month of trying to sell five fake Hirst paintings and prints that mimicked the artist’s pharmaceutical-themed “spot” paintings and round “spin” paintings to an undercover detective.
Sutherland, who plans to appeal, said he was just an art-world tyro who got confusing signals about the pieces’ authenticity.
The 46-year-old Sutherland leads Mosaic Miami Church in Miami, a small, nondenominational church in Miami.
Sutherland reportedly tried to sell the works for $185,000.
Defense lawyer Sanford “Sam” Talkin emphasized Sutherland’s good works to the judge, and Mosaic Miami members and others wrote letters on his behalf.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office noted that Sotheby’s auction house had raised red flags about the authenticity of one of the paintings, but Sutherland nonetheless told the detective he didn’t know of any doubts about them.
But Sutherland said the auction house never clearly told him the artworks were counterfeit. He said he believed their authenticity was guaranteed when he bought them from Vincent Lopreto, an admitted California art scammer who testified against him.
Lopreto pleaded guilty this year to identity theft and other charges. Two other men also admitted guilt in phony-Hirst cases brought by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.
“Because the art industry is largely unregulated, it is particularly important to hold accountable those who fraudulently deal artwork,” Vance said after Sutherland’s conviction.
Hirst received Great Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize in 1995.
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