Antiques Dealers Arrested and Accused of Faking History

Erdal Dere and Faisal Khan were indicted on Tuesday, September 23rd in Manhattan federal court for allegedly fabricating the histories of ownership for the antiquities they sold in New York auction houses between around 2015 to September 2020. Dere is additionally being charged with aggravated identity theft for using the identities of deceased collectors to falsely claiming they had owned the items in which Dere was selling. The Office’s Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit is handling the case.

Antiquities are ancient artifacts, basically anything that was produced in the ancient world. Their chain of ownership is known as provenance. Provenance is important because it allows an item’s history be known to collectors. If you fake provenance, it can cause a lot of issues for collectors and might just land you behind bars.

“The integrity of the legitimate market in antiquities rests on the accuracy of the provenance provided by antiquities dealers, which prevents the sale of stolen and looted antiquities that lack any legitimate provenance.  As alleged, Erdal Dere and Faisal Khan compromised that integrity, and defrauded buyers and brokers of the antiquities they sold, by fabricating the provenance of those antiquities, and concealing their true history.  Now, thanks to the FBI’s Art Crime Team, Dere and Khan are in custody and facing prosecution for their alleged crimes.”
– Audrey Strauss, Acting U.S. Attorney

Dere was arrested by federal law enforcement agents at his place of residence in New York, New York on Tuesday morning. He is the owner and operator of Fortuna Fine Arts Ltd., an antiquities gallery based in Manhatten. Khan, Dere’ business associate and partner in crime, was arrested at his home in New Jersey Tuesday morning too.

The charges and their corresponding maximum prison terms are:
Wire Fraud Conspiracy: 20 years
Wire Fraud: 20 years
Aggravated Identity Theft: 2 years

“Antiquities and art allow us to see a piece of history from a world that existed hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of years ago.  As alleged, the men who trafficked in fake documents and used dead people’s names to bolster their lies had no care for the precious items they sold and no regard for the people they defrauded.  We are asking anyone who may have dealt with Mr. Dere or Mr. Khan to contact us at NYArtCrime@fbi.gov.  You may have been a victim of their alleged scheme.”
– William F. Sweeney Jr., FBI Assistant Director

The dealers have only been accused thus far. They are innocent until proven guilty. It will be interesting to see how this all pans out.

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References:

[1] – https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/pr/antiquities-dealers-arrested-fraud-scheme. Accessed 23 Sept. 2020.

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