San Diego, California - Jason Harrington pleaded guilty Monday and admitted that he sold $1.1 million of forged art. Harrington sold artwork purportedly created by Richard Hambleton – a New York City artist who rose to fame in the 1980s and whose paintings routinely sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In his plea agreement, Harrington admitted selling forged art to at least fifteen galleries and individuals between 2018 and 2020. The forged art included paintings of a black-silhouetted figure known as the Shadowman, which was a recurring motif in Hambleton’s works.
To make the forged art appear authentic, Harrington lied to prospective buyers regarding the provenance of the art. To support these false statements, Harrington provided prospective buyers with a fake letter purportedly signed by the individual who obtained the art and, on one occasion, instructed an individual to speak with a prospective buyer and falsely claim to have obtained the art from Hambleton. According to court records, Harrington altered images, using publicly available photographs of Hambleton, to make it appear that the individual who purportedly obtained the art knew Hambleton.
Harrington also admitted to attempting to sell at least one forged painting purporting to be from the noted portraitist Barkley Hendricks. According to court records, Harrington falsely claimed to the owner of an art gallery that he inherited the painting from his uncle. The art gallery, however, refused to purchase the painting after Hendricks’ widow viewed the painting and determined it was a forgery.
(photograph obtained by law enforcement from Harrington’s files depict the forgery in progress.)
“Forged artwork harms investors, corrupts the integrity of the art market, and damages the historical-cultural record,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “This case reflects the federal government’s full commitment to effectively investigate and prosecute complex art fraud crimes.” Grossman commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Galvin and the FBI agents who handled this matter.
“Mr. Harrington created multiple fake paintings, devised elaborate cover stories to authenticate them, targeted unsuspecting buyers, and sold over a million dollars of forged artwork,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner. “Fraudulent and forged artwork degrades the integrity and trust within the art community and today’s guilty plea should send a clear message - the FBI will aggressively pursue those who use fraud schemes to make a living, regardless of the type of instrument used to commit the fraud.”
As part of his plea, Harrington agreed to pay at least $1,124,001.22 in restitution. Harrington will appear for sentencing on October 22, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. before U.S. District Court Judge Janis L. Sammartino.
DEFENDANT Case Number 21-CR-1184-JLS
Jason Harrington Age: 38 Escondido, CA
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Wire Fraud – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1343
Maximum penalty: 20 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine
Federal Bureau of Investigation