Inigo Philbrick, Art World’s ‘Mini-Madoff’, Arrested on South Pacific Island of Vanuatu for $20 Million Fraud Scheme

A disgraced gallery owner known as the art world’s “mini-Madoff” — a reference to jailed financier Bernie Madoff — has been taken into custody on the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, according to federal prosecutors in New York, who have charged Inigo Philbrick in a $20 million fraud scheme.

Vanuatu authorities expelled Philbrick at the request of the U.S. Embassy in Papua New Guinea. He was transported to Guam, where he is expected to be presented in federal court Monday.

Philbrick was an art dealer specializing in post-war and contemporary fine art with galleries in London and Miami. He fled the country last year after he was accused of, among other things, selling the same piece of art to multiple buyers.

“Inigo Philbrick was a serial swindler who misled art collectors, investors, and lenders out of more than $20 million,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. “You can’t sell more than 100 percent ownership in a single piece of art, which Philbrick allegedly did, among other scams.”

Philbrick, who is charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, bought at auction a 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat titled “Humidity” for $12.5 million, according to the criminal complaint. He allegedly told an investor he paid $18.4 million.

The investor, the FBI said, wired Philbrick $12.2 million for a joint ownership stake. Philbrick allegedly then sold a second ownership stake to a different investor without disclosing it to either.

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SOURCE: ABC News, Aaron Katersky