San Diego art dealer Louis Esquivel Almeida was charged Thursday with 12 counts of grand theft stemming from an alleged scheme in which he purportedly sold forgeries of paintings by the late Olaf Wieghorst, a famed Western artist.
Almeida, 49, the owner of the Brentwood Gallery, was to be arraigned Thursday, but the arraignment was postponed until later this month. According to the charges against him, Almeida began his scheme in 1982, when he began selling Wieghorst paintings and lithographs on consignment by their owners.
Police investigators said that Almeida began to copy the paintings in oil or photograph them. The photographed forgeries were then placed on canvas and shellacked to give the appearance of oil. Almeida is charged with defrauding buyers of about $200,000.
A local dentist identified as Frank Pavel discovered the scheme when he became suspicious and took a painting that he had purchased to Wieghorst, who lived in El Cajon, and his son, Roy, to authenticate it, authorities said. Wieghorst and his son declared it a forgery, police said.
Wieghorst died in April, but his son assisted the investigation by helping detectives authenticate other paintings and lithographs.