Two dealers of ancient art were indicted Tuesday for allegedly creating fake ownership histories for the antiquities they sold through auction houses in New York.
Erdal Dere and Faisal Khan used the identities of deceased collectors to create the fake histories for antiquities they sold through Dere’s New York company, Fortuna Fine Arts Ltd, according to the indictment unsealed Tuesday.
The ownership history of a piece of ancient art, known as its provenance, is important in documenting its value and whether or not it was looted or otherwise obtained illegally. Buying, selling, possessing or transporting stolen or looted property is illegal.
The U.S. attorney’s office for New York’s Southern District alleged that beginning in 2015, Dere drafted fake documents to show ownership history for items his company possessed and for new items Khan bought, primarily in Asia. Khan, Dere’s associate in the business, located buyers for the items in the U.S. and overseas.
Dere was arrested in New York on Tuesday. Khan was arrested at his home in Flanders, New Jersey. Both were scheduled to make an initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon.
The 50-year-old Dere is charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Khan, 47, is charged with wire fraud and conspiracy. The wire fraud and conspiracy charges are punishable by maximum prison terms of 20 years.
A message was left with an attorney representing Dere. The name of an attorney representing Khan wasn’t immediately available.
The FBI’s art crime team and the New York City police department’s major theft task force collaborated on the investigation, along with authorities in Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, and France.