Former Employee of Art Collector Charged in Manhattan Court With Scheme To Sell Warhol Art

LawFuel.com – PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the
Southern District of New York, JOSEPH M. DEMAREST, JR., the
Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the
Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and JANET DiFIORE, the
District Attorney for Westchester County, announced today that
JAMES S. BIEAR, surrendered today and was charged with mail and
wire fraud in Manhattan federal court, in connection with a joint
investigation conducted by the FBI and the Westchester County
Police Department into BIEAR’s possession of numerous pieces of
notable artwork believed to have been stolen from his former
employer. The federal charges relate to BIEAR’s sale of one of
those pieces of artwork, a Heinz 57 box created by the artist
Andy Warhol, to an unwitting collector in New York City.
According to the Complaint unsealed today in Manhattan
federal court:

In July 2008, BIEAR sold a Andy Warhol silkscreen on a
wooden crate mimicking a Heinz 57 case of ketchup (the “Warhol
Heinz 57 box”) to an art collector in New York City for
approximately $220,000. In connection with the sale, BIEAR
claimed that the Warhol Heinz 57 box had been gifted to him from
his uncle who had legal title to the Warhol Heinz 57 box. In
truth and in fact, Andy Warhol had gifted the Warhol Heinz 57 box
to an art collector (the “Art Collector”) in 1964. In or around
April 2007, the Warhol Heinz 57 box was noticed to be missing
from the Art Collector’s New York residence after a birthday
party. BIEAR had been employed by the Art Collector at the time
that the Warhol Heinz 57 box was believed to have been stolen.
BIEAR is charged with one count of mail fraud and one
count of wire fraud. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence
of 40 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or
twice the gross gain or loss caused by his crimes.

BIEAR also faces charges brought by the Westchester
District Attorney’s Office. According to the Felony Complaint
filed in Westchester County court, BIEAR is charged with Criminal
Possession of Stolen Property in the second degree in connection
with BIEAR’s possession of artwork also believed to have been
stolen from his prior employer, specifically, an ink drawing by
Francis Picabia titled, “Jean Cocteau par Francis Picabia.” If
convicted, BIEAR faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
BIEAR, 49, of Ossining, New York, is expected to be
presented today before United States Magistrate Judge HENRY B.
PITMAN and is expected to appear later today in state court in
Ossining, New York.

Mr. BHARARA praised the FBI and the Westchester
District Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation
and thanked the Westchester County Police Department for its
assistance.

The federal case is being prosecuted by the Office’s
Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant United States Attorney LISA P.
KOROLOGOS is in charge of the prosecution. The state case is
being handled by Assistant District Attorney BRIAN FITZGERALD for
the Investigations Division at the Westchester District
Attorney’s Office.
The charges contained in the Complaint are merely
accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and
until proven guilty.
09-375 ###

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