Federal prosecutors and F.B.I. agents in New York believe that Mr. Bergantiños carried out a daring forgery swindle that fooled the art world, leading collectors to spend more than $80 million on dozens of fake masterworks by painters including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell.
Living in the so called information age, the age old fraud is still possible, it seems. I take some small comfort/pleasure in that. Not of the schadenfreudic kind, if you take my word for it. But a small, maybe not so small, pleasure in seeing how dreams and desires can still overcome the most likely probability that we are being taken in, fooled, engañados. We are still believing creatures, mostly.
The swindle, officials have said, was carried out with Mr. Bergantiños’s girlfriend, Glafira Rosales, who was charged last May and pleaded guilty in September in the scheme. She has been cooperating with the federal authorities.
One element of the scheme that has riveted the art world is the source of the fraud: a single immigrant from China who painted out of his home and garage in Woodhaven, Queens, and produced the scores of paintings and drawings that were successfully presented as newly discovered works by some of the 20th century’s greatest artists.
The painter, Pei-Shen Qian, received formal training at an art school in New York. Federal authorities, who identified Mr. Bergantiños as Co-Conspirator No. 1 in the indictment charging Ms. Rosales, said he met and befriended Mr. Qian in the 1980s, while the artist was painting on the street in Manhattan.
Federal officials have said that Mr. Bergantiños treated the canvases to make them look old and then forged the signatures of artists like Pollock and Motherwell.