HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Two Hawaii residents were indicted for several fraud charges regarding allegedly counterfeit artistic and antique pieces of wood that were allegedly sold to collectors in Pennsylvania, according to the United States Department of Justice.
According to a document from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), 60-year-old Earl Marshawn Washington and his 31-year-old wife Zsanett Nagy, who both live in Honolulu, Hawaii, allegedly sold counterfeit “woodblocks” and “woodcuts” with engravings.
The woodblocks and woodcuts, which use a historical technique of art called xylography, were allegedly advertised by Washington and Nagy to be from between the 15th and 20th centuries.
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It is also alleged that Washington and Nagy sold the fake woodblocks and woodcuts to multiple people and then laundered the money made in the sales.
The indictment claims that residents of Hummelstown and York, as well as two French collectors, were all scammed for hundreds of thousands of dollars collectively.
According to the DOJ document, two buyers in France allegedly paid Washington and Nagy $84,350.91 via PayPal before finding out the woodblocks they bought were not from the 15th and 16th centuries, as advertised.
Nagy then allegedly transferred the PayPal funds to a bank account in her name, then withdrew several thousand dollars in cash.
Washington was also charged with defrauding a woodblock collector from York, in which the indictment alleges the collector paid Washington, and his girlfriend at the time, $118,810 from 2013 to 2016 in 130 woodblock purchases.
Officials did not say how much the Hummelstown collector paid for the counterfeit art.
“Here we had collectors paying for what they believed were old, rare, and valuable woodblocks and prints, but what they allegedly received were none of the above. The FBI’s Art Crime Team is uniquely positioned to investigate matters like this and committed to holding art fraudsters accountable,” said Jacqueline Maguire, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division.
The indictment seeks over $200,000 from Washing and Nagy combined, which is allegedly how much they received from their sale of counterfeit art.
Washington and Nagy were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering. Washington is being separately charged with bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
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The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering charges is 5 years in prison and a fine. The maximum penalty for Washington’s bank fraud charges is 30 years in prison and a fine.