A Northbrook art dealer who played a crucial role in a multi-million dollar, international fake art ring was sentenced last week to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of fraud last year.
The latest sentence will mark 58-year-old art dealer Michael Zabrin's second trip back to prison, as the Chicago Tribune reports. In 1992, he pleaded guilty to selling $800,000 worth of counterfeit fine art prints and served a reduced one-year term after he helped authorities nab another fraudulent art dealer.
Zabrin previously admitted to scamming at least 250 people out of more than $1 million between the years of 1999 and 2007 through his sale of fake "limited edition" prints that were advertised as the work of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Roy Lichtenstein and other artistic luminaries. In the plea agreement he issued to Judge Robert M. Dow Jr., Zabrin admitted to buying the prints for $1,000 to $1,500 and reselling them through his companies Fineartmasters and ZFineartmasters on eBay for a hefty profit.
In addition to his most recent conviction, Zabrin had previously been convicted of a bevy of charges including telephone harassment, mail fraud and retail theft -- charges also linked to Zabrin's defense attorney's claim that his client suffered from a history of depression, anxiety and addiction that contributed to his propensity toward crime.
Two associates of Zabrin's, fellow Northbrook resident James Kennedy and Leon Amiel, Jr., both have also pleaded guilty to similar charges and are awaiting their sentences. Amiel's sentence is due to be announced next week, while Kennedy's is expected in July.
Yet another accomplice of Zabrain's, Alan Kass, faced similar charges last month for selling counterfeit prints out of his Kass/Meridian Gallery, 353 W. Huron, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Kass reportedly raked in nearly $500,000 selling Chagall lithographs and other works bearing forged signatures and numerical markings online.