Grant Champkins-Howard and Lee Parker have received a suspended sentence of 12 months after pleading guilty to selling numerous fakes of prints purporting to be by the Urban Artist Banksy. They were also banned from selling anything on the Internet for five years and ordered to undertake 240 hours of community service. They had both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud. Banksy, whose trademark is shrouded in anonymity makes him an ideal target for fraudsters, as he would most likely be unwilling to appear in court.
Richard Mandel, the prosecuting Lawyer pointed out that the pair had “exploited the weaknesses of an anonymous artist”. And by selling the fakes on eBay, the men had identified an opportunity to defraud customers of tens of thousands of pounds. They set up multiple eBay and, PayPal accounts using numerous email addresses to carry out the deception. Many buyers were given fake provenance certificates, including sales receipts purportedly from Pictures on Walls, the company used by Banksy to produce and distribute his prints. The emails detailed sales histories and appeared to authenticate the fakes.When challenged by a buyer, the two men would simply refund the money.
More than 120 fakes were recovered in raids of the men’s homes. If genuine, these would have been valued at £200,000. The fake prints included Turf War sold to a British buyer for £1,850, Golf Sale sold to an American for £6,500 and Monkey Queen sold to a Spaniard for £4,500.
Detective Constable Ian Lawson, of the Metropolitan Police Art and Antiques Unit, said: “This was a lucrative and unscrupulous scam in which the culprits had no qualms about ripping off collectors.”
Frauds like these always have a negative impact on the art market and the leniency shown in sentencing the perpetrators is not going to be enough of a deterrent to stop crimes of this nature occurring.