British art dealer Robert Newland (46), involved in a vast fraud on the art market, was sentenced to twenty months in prison by a New York court on Wednesday September 20. He admitted guilt last year to helping scam mastermind Inigo Philbrick deceive collectors, investors and lenders with fraudulent art deals.
Inigo Philbrick (35 years old), who was arrested in June 2020 after several months on the run, was sentenced on May 23, 2022 to seven years in prison for setting up a Ponzi scheme. He resold the same shares of works of art to several buyers. He then used the money from the new buyers to pay off his old creditors. Between 2016 and 2019, he carried out more than 86 million dollars (80.7 million euros) in fraudulent transactions.
Robert Newland, the only known accomplice, was Inigo Philbrick’s business partner and financial advisor and participated in approximately half of the fraudulent transactions over a two-year period. In a letter to the judge, Robert Newland described how he gradually became drawn into this scam. He sent creditors documents that he knew were false and invented a fictitious character, “a collector named Martin Herrero” to cover up scams.
He pleaded guilty in September 2022 to the charge of preparation to commit wire fraud and agreed to pay a fine of $76,000 (72,000 euros), the amount of his winnings in the fraud. He also restored a painting by Christopher Wool from 2016, a lithograph by Wade Guyton and a desk by Jean Prouvé. He was released on $400,000 bail while awaiting trial.
US Attorney Damian Williams said that Robert Newland deserved a less severe sentence than that of Inigo Philbrick, but that it was also necessary to send a dissuasive message to potential art market fraudsters. According to him, this market is “ripe for abuse” due to the lack of transparency, regulation and oversight to which it is subject.
In addition to the prison term, Robert Newland was sentenced to two years of supervised release, during which he must complete 200 hours of community service per year. The court recommended that the art dealer be transferred to the United Kingdom to serve his sentence, although that decision ultimately rests with the U.S. Department of Justice. Robert Newland was also ordered to pay $67.6 million (€63.4 million) in compensation to the victims. In other words, he was likely held responsible for the losses he suffered from the fraud, even though his personal gains were significantly lower.
Many of the victims, including Berlin-based financial services firm Fine Art Partners and US-based art lender Athena Art Finance, are unlikely to recover their lost assets. Numerous civil actions against Inigo Philbrick are still pending and some of the artworks in question have not yet been located.
Furthermore, the New York court announced on Wednesday that Inigo Philbrick would only have to serve a prison sentence of 48 to 49 months before the start of his supervised release.