In 2010, owner of the Empire Bronze Art Foundry in Long Island City, Brian Ramnarine tried to sell a forgery of one of Johns’s bronze flag sculptures for a reported £6 million. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry to bring shame to my family,” stated Ramnarine, 60, as he told Manhattan federal Judge John Koetl before being sentenced on Thursday to two-and-a-half years in prison for attempting to sell fake bronze sculptures purported to be by Jasper Johns and other artists, the Daily News reports.
In 1990, Johns had given Ramnarine a mold of his metallic sculpture Flag (1960) so that the foundary owner could make a wax cast. But instead of destroying the mold, Ramnarine used it to make a new bronze flag, then forged Johns’s signature.
Johns, 84, told the jury that Ramnarine had lied by claiming the artist gave him the bronze copy as a gift. Ramnarine was caught by authorities trying to sell it in 2010 to a collector. Ramnarine sold other fake sculptures for £21,000, after he was arrested and released on bail in 2012, claiming that they were works by the artists Robert Indiana and Saint Clair Cemin.
Ramnarine pleaded guilty to all charges. He faced up to 10 years of prison time, but the judge reduced the sentence in part because Ramnarine’s solicitor claimed that his client had been having some serious health issues, according to the Daily News.
“Ramnarine’s only art was as a con artist who concocted and carried out not one, but three separate schemes to peddle fake sculptures to unsuspecting buyers for millions of dollars, pretending that they had been made by well-known artists,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in statement to the press.