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Elderly art forger gets a suspended sentence

January 29, 2008|From the Associated Press

LONDON -- A man whose family forged statues and paintings and then passed them off as priceless pieces of art to museums including the Art Institute of Chicago received a two-year suspended sentence Monday.

George Greenhalgh, 84; his 83-year-old wife, Olive; and their 46-year-old son, Shaun, pleaded guilty to charges of laundering money from the sale of forged artworks.

The son, who authorities said created the fakes, was sentenced to more than four years in jail in November. His mother received a 12-month sentence. Police said the parents handled most of the sales. The elder Greenhalgh's sentence had been deferred pending a report on his health.

Detective Sergeant Vernon Rapley, the chief of Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques unit, said the family has been "operating for nearly 20 years, producing and introducing a diverse range of art works into the U.K. market."

In December, the Art Institute of Chicago said a ceramic figure supposedly sculpted by French artist Paul Gauguin, which graced the museum for 10 years, was among the Greenhalgh forgeries.

Police say the family used a genuine 19th century sales document to get ideas on which items to fake. Once the items were fabricated, they used the catalog as proof of provenance when presenting their knockoffs for sale.

The scheme unraveled when they presented three Assyrian stone reliefs to the British Museum. Experts doubted their authenticity, noting misspellings in the Cuneiform script inscribed on the work. They notified Scotland Yard.

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