Before You "Buy It Now" - A Warning to eBay Art Collectors

eBay, art fraud, art collecting
Art dealer Michael Zabrin pleaded guilty on Tuesday to selling fake contemporary artworks on eBay.
CHICAGO — You can buy and sell just about anything on eBay, but scammers like art dealer Michael Zabrin reinforce and remind us all of the warning, caveat emptor.

Zabrin was among a group of seven charged with trading fake artwork in March 2008. According to a plea agreement filed Tuesday, Zabrin, a 57-year-old art dealer from Chicago, admitted to swindling at least 250 art collectors out of more than $1 million using his companies Fineartmasters and ZFineartmasters to sell counterfeit art prints over eBay. He pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and could receive up to 13 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 at the sentencing scheduled for March 23.

According to the Associated Press, when Zabrin needed more prints to sell, he would contact his sources in Spain and Italy. When he ran out of fake Pablo Picassos he would say, "I need some P's." When he needed bogus works by Roy Lichtenstein, he would say: "I need some L's." He has admitted to selling fakes by contemporary masters Picasso, Lichtenstein, Chagall, Miro and Dali.

Zabrin paid between $1,000 and $1,500 for each art print, which he then "resold at no less than three times his cost" to unsuspecting eBay buyers. Some customers who realized they'd been scammed returned the fakes, but Zabrin acknowledged that he simply waited a few months and just resold them to someone else.

Authenticity is perhaps the most crucial aspect of art collecting; this latest eBay fraud case only reinforces the importance of performing due diligence before you click "Buy It Now".


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