(STL.News) – Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the unsealing of an Indictment in Manhattan federal court charging ERDAL DERE, the owner and operator of the Manhattan-based antiquities gallery Fortuna Fine Arts Ltd. (“Fortuna”), and his longtime business associate and co-conspirator, FAISAL KHAN, with engaging in a years-long scheme to defraud buyers and brokers in the antiquities market by using false provenances to offer and sell antiquities. DERE is also charged with aggravated identity theft for his misappropriation of the identities of deceased collectors who were falsely represented to be the prior owners of the antiquities.
Federal law enforcement agents arrested DERE this morning at his residence in New York, New York. KHAN was also arrested this morning at his residence in New Jersey. Both DERE and KHAN will be presented later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn.
Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “The integrity of the legitimate market in antiquities rests on the accuracy of the provenance provided by antiquities dealers, which prevents the sale of stolen and looted antiquities that lack any legitimate provenance. As alleged, Erdal Dere and Faisal Khan compromised that integrity, and defrauded buyers and brokers of the antiquities they sold, by fabricating the provenance of those antiquities, and concealing their true history. Now, thanks to the FBI’s Art Crime Team, Dere and Khan are in custody and facing prosecution for their alleged crimes.”
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “Antiquities and art allow us to see a piece of history from a world that existed hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of years ago. As alleged, the men who trafficked in fake documents and used dead people’s names to bolster their lies had no care for the precious items they sold and no regard for the people they defrauded. We are asking anyone who may have dealt with Mr. Dere or Mr. Khan to contact us at [email protected]fbi.gov. You may have been a victim of their alleged scheme.”
According to the allegations in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
From approximately 2015 through September 2020, DERE and KHAN engaged in a scheme to defraud buyers and brokers in the antiquities market by providing false information regarding the provenance of antiquities they offered for sale. Specifically, DERE and KHAN falsely claimed that various deceased collectors of antiquities were the prior owners of items being sold and offered for sale, in order to conceal the true provenance of the antiquities and the sources from which Fortuna had acquired them.
DERE communicated the false provenances featuring the names of deceased collectors to buyers and brokers. DERE also fabricated documents purporting to evidence the prior ownership of antiquities by the deceased collectors, and provided them to buyers and brokers, including to an auction house in New York, New York in connection with a December 2015 antiquities auction.
KHAN assisted Fortuna in finding buyers for items from its pre-existing inventory and acquired new items, primarily in Asia, that KHAN worked with Fortuna to sell to collectors in the United States and internationally. With KHAN’s knowledge, DERE provided false provenance information to potential buyers of items that KHAN had personally located and acquired, listing deceased collectors as the long-time owners of items which KHAN and DERE well knew had not been owned by those collectors.
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DERE, 50, of New York, New York, was charged in the Indictment with wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The wire fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum prison term of 20 years. The wire fraud charge carries a maximum prison term of 20 years. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory sentence of two years in prison.
KHAN, 47, of Flanders, New Jersey, was charged in the Indictment with wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud. The wire fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum prison term of 20 years. The wire fraud charge carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.
The statutory maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentence will be determined by the judge.
Ms. Strauss praised the investigative work of the FBI/NYPD Joint Major Theft Task Force/Art Crime Team. In addition, Ms. Strauss thanked authorities in Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, and France, as well as the United States Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs of the Department’s Criminal Division, the FBI’s Legal Attaché in Frankfurt, Germany, and the New York City Police Department for their assistance.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Jessica Greenwood is in charge of the prosecution.
The allegations in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.