Suspect in conspiracy to sell counterfeit art pleads guilty, will serve 52 months in prison

image

Earl Washington admitted to conspiring to sell counterfeit woodblocks to collectors, claiming they were centuries old. Two victims are from Central Pennsylvania.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — One of two suspects indicted in a conspiracy to sell counterfeit woodblocks will serve more than four years in prison after pleading guilty in U.S. Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, U.S. attorney Gerard M. Karam announced Tuesday.

Earl Marshawn Washington, 61, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, Karam said. He was sentenced to 52 months in prison.

Washington admitted to working with a series of romantic partners, including his former wife, Zsannet Nagy, who has also been charged, to create and sell the counterfeit woodcuts to a series of buyers, including two in Central Pennsylvania.

Xylography is the art of making “woodcuts,” or engravings made from wooden blocks, especially for printing using historical techniques, Karam said. In traditional xylography, an artist uses a sharpened tool to carve a design into the surface of a woodblock. The raised areas that remain after the block has been cut are inked and printed, while the recessed areas that are cut away do not retain ink and will remain blank in the final print. 

Woodblock images can be printed onto paper, fabrics, textiles or other materials, Karam said.

The technique has been used in different geographic regions at different times. One woodblock tradition stems from Germany starting around the 14th century and continuing for several hundred years thereafter. 

Washington and Nagy were originally charged by indictment in January 2023. As part of Washington’s plea agreement, the original charges against him were dismissed, and a new charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud was filed. Washington pleaded guilty to this offense in July 2023. 

Nagy pleaded guilty in August 2023 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering. 

Washington and Nagy each admitted to selling inauthentic woodblocks and prints made from woodblocks that they as advertised as being from between the 15th and early 20th centuries. 

The buyers included a pair of woodblock collectors in France, as well as a buyer of a woodblock print who then resided in Hummelstown. 

Another victim was a collector of woodblocks from York, who paid $118,810 to Washington and his then-girlfriend over a three-year period to purchase approximately 130 woodblocks that were advertised as several centuries old, Karam said.

Together, the buyers in France paid nearly $85,000 for counterfeit woodblocks, according to Karam.

The buyers made PayPal payments to Nagy before learning that the woodblocks they purchased were not from the 15th and 16th centuries, as advertised. 

Nagy received these payments, moved the proceeds to a bank account in her name, and then quickly converted the proceeds to cash through withdrawals of several thousand dollars or more, Karam said.

In one email, for instance, Washington, using the alias “River Seine,” claimed to be selling “original printing blocks from the 16th and 17th centuries,” according to Karam.

At the time of his guilty plea, Washington also admitted to regularly utilizing bank accounts and PayPal accounts belonging to his romantic partners, to utilizing the alias “River Seine” when dealing with customers, and to relying on his partners to handle mailings of packages to victims, Karam said.

Washington was also ordered to pay restitution to victims in the total amount of $203,240.90 and ordered to serve a three-year term of supervised release following his imprisonment. 

Nagy was sentenced to time served in January 2024. She also faces potential deportation for her conviction. 

Download the FOX43 app

[embedded content]

Sign up to receive the best Underground art & real estate news in your inbox everyday.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

This post was originally published on this site