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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 December, 2004, 10:56 GMT
US gallery owner admits art fraud
New York skyline
The fraud was run from the Exclusive Art gallery in New York
An art dealer has pleaded guilty to selling forgeries of paintings of Renoir, Chagall, Modigliani and Gaugin.

Ely Sakhai, 52, owner of New York's Exclusive Art gallery, faces several years in jail, must forfeit 11 original artworks and pay back $12.5m (6.5m).

Gallery office manager Houshi Sandjaby, 70, also admitted being part of the scheme, which went on for 15 years.

The pair bought authentic paintings then hired artists to make highly detailed copies, which were sold on.

The gallery made copies of works including Renoir's Jeune Femme S'Essuyant and Chagall's Les Maries au Bouquet de Fleurs, which were sold to galleries in Tokyo and Taipei.

Auction sales

The forgeries even included replicated markings on the backs of canvases, forged certificates of identity and frames made to look older.

Mr Sakhai and Mr Sandjaby even sold originals years after selling the forgeries, leading one painting to be apparently on sale at different auction houses twice in one month.

Mr Sakhai has agreed to serve between three and four years in jail as part of a deal that will see him repay the fees and give up the paintings.

He could have faced 20 years otherwise. Mr Sandjaby could serve up to five years. They will be sentenced in July 2005.

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