The fugitive art dealer Inigo Philbrick was arrested in Vanuatu after allegedly defrauding collectors of more than $20 million.
Inigo Philbrick (right) attends an opening at Galerie Patrick Seguin in London on February 25, 2016. Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Galerie Patrick Sequin.
The fugitive art dealer Inigo Philbrick was arrested on the Pacific island of Vanuatu last week for allegedly defrauding collectors out of more than $20 million between 2016 and 2019. Philbrick disappeared last October after the German financial services company Fine Art Partners (FAP) sued him for withholding $14 million worth of art, including works by Yayoi Kusama, Donald Judd, and Christopher Wool. Following Philbrick’s disappearance, several other collectors came forward with accusations of fraud, including the billionaire collectors David and Simon Reuben, whose auction of a 2012 Rudolf Stingler painting they acquired from Philbrick’s gallery was held up when it was revealed that Philbrick had sold ownership of the work to two other collectors.
In a press release announcing Philbrick’s arrest, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey S. Berman said:
As alleged, Inigo Philbrick was a serial swindler who misled art collectors, investors, and lenders out of more than $20 million. You can’t sell more than 100 percent ownership in a single piece of art, which Philbrick allegedly did, among other scams. When his schemes began to unravel, Philbrick allegedly fled the country. Now he is in U.S. custody and facing justice.
The press release goes on to outline the rest of Philbrick’s alleged misconduct, including “material misrepresentations and omissions to art collectors, investors, and lenders,” as well as the furnishing of “fraudulent contracts and records to investors to artificially inflate the artworks’ value,” which in one case included “a contract that listed a stolen identity as the seller.”
Following his arrest, Philbrick—who had operated galleries in Miami and London—was transported to the U.S. island of Guam, where he was due to appear in court today. He has been charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, which carry maximum prison terms of 20 years and 2 years, respectively.