October 11, 2017
Counterfeit Damien Hirst “Esculetin” Print (Pictured: Front and Back)
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the sentencing of VINCENT LOPRETO, 52, to 5 ½-to-11 years in state prison for creating and selling counterfeit pieces of contemporary art to prospective buyers around the world. The defendant pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court to Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree.
“As forgers’ skills and tools have advanced, the risk of unknowingly purchasing fake art is on the rise,” said District Attorney Vance. “Particularly when it comes to buying artwork online, prospective buyers need to be especially cautious and wary of scams like this one, which cost its unsuspecting victims tens of thousands of dollars.”
As admitted in the defendant’s guilty plea, between October 2015 and February 2017, LOPRETO sold counterfeit pieces of contemporary art that were falsely represented as original Damien Hirst prints, through an international art fraud scheme that involved victims in the U.S., Europe, Africa, and Asia. Using a stamp, printer, and other tools that were recovered after a search warrant was executed at the defendant’s apartment, LOPRETO created fake prints in the distinctive style of Damien Hirst, and advertised them online as authentic, limited edition prints signed by the artist. LOPRETO also used fake documentation, such as fraudulent certificates of authenticity and purchase receipts, to deceive his victims into paying thousands of dollars for the counterfeit pieces of art. In total, the defendant stole more than $400,000 from at least 35 victims of the scheme.
In January 2014, LOPRETO was previously convicted of Identity Theft in the First Degree and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree for a similar scheme to sell forged pieces of art created in imitation of genuine Damien Hirst pieces, for which he served a sentence of 2-to-4 years in state prison.
Assistant District Attorney Jaime Hickey-Mendoza handled the prosecution of the case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Julieta V. Lozano, Deputy Chief of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau, Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy, Chief of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau, and Executive Assistant District Attorney Michael Sachs, Chief of the Investigation Division. Rackets Investigators Samuel Morales, Matthew Dato, and Angel Estremera, and Senior Rackets Investigators Anthony Santoro, Thomas Mullin, and Richard Ramos provided additional assistance with the investigation, under the supervision of Supervising Rackets Investigators Donato Siciliano and Steve Akselrod and Chief Investigator Walter Alexander. Principal Financial Investigator Angelo Dellicarpini, working under the supervision of Irene Serrapica and Robert Demarest, Deputy Chief and Chief, respectively, of the Forensic Accounting and Financial Investigations Unit. Paralegals Jonathan Spira and Sophie Hoblit also assisted with the case.
District Attorney Vance thanked the following agencies, individuals, and entities for their assistance: the Hirst Authentication Committee; PayPal; eBay; the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona, particularly Detectives Chad Shilling and Jason Dubien, and Sergeant Brandon Rumpf; the 8th Police District of the New Orleans Police Department and Detective Aldeane Valentino; Yavapai County Attorney’s Office and Deputy County Attorney Steve Young; and the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, and Chief of Special Projects Page Cline.
VINCENT LOPRETO, D.O.B. 5/4/1965
New Orleans, LA
- Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 1 count
- Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
- 5 ½-to-11 years in state prison