A major Florida art dealer has been accused of selling counterfeit works by Jean Michel-Basquiat and Banksy for hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a federal criminal complaint.
Daniel Elie Bouaziz, who ran two galleries on Palm Beach’s exclusive Worth Avenue, allegedly bought cheap reproductions online and passed them off as genuine to unsuspecting customers.
In one case, he scooped up a $100 Andy Warhol facsimile and sold it for $85,000 to a deceived customer, according to federal court documents filed in Florida.
The FBI began monitoring Bouaziz’s activities in 2021 after several clients alerted them to his alleged misconduct.
They told officials that works by big-name names like pop artists Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring were worth millions if they were real — and that Bouaziz’s pricing structures made no sense.
Operating undercover, federal agents quickly bought a fake Warhol from Bouaziz for $26,000 and also made an additional deal worth $22 million before his arrest last week, according to court documents.
Agents recorded conversations with Bouaziz at his galleries where he presented the pieces as foolproof investments.
“I really gave you a fantastic price,” the gallery owner told them in a meeting about a Warhol “Superman” print. “You can only make money.”
In one of his most ambitious gambits, Bouaziz reportedly offered undercover agents a Basquiat he bought for 495 euros for $12 million.
The French citizen of Algerian descent appears to have reveled in his product, according to the complaint. The indictment notes that he used his windfall for purchases from luxury brands Lamborghini, Rolex and Cartier.
The criminal charges note a total of six alleged victims who each paid tens of thousands of dollars for stock reproductions by iconic artists.
A buyer signed more than $120,000 for two pieces that Bouaziz picked up for just $600, according to the complaint.
To allay customers’ suspicions, Bouaziz presented himself as an impeccable art appraiser and would provide certificates of authenticity.
His attorney, Howard Schumacher, said his client had established a long-standing reputation as an honest dealer in Palm Beach and art prices were inherently subjective.
Schumacher said he has returned money to disgruntled customers in the past and has always adhered to this policy.
“He has a tremendous following on the island in a very eclectic region,” Schumacher said, adding that he plans to plead not guilty. “This government intrusion has had an impact on his reputation and he wants that erased.”
Bouaziz was released on $500,000 bail on Friday in his first court appearance.