Men charged over Damien Hirst counterfeits

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Dunham

Three men have been charged in New York with fraud and theft after allegedly using counterfeit Damien Hirst artworks to scam dozens of art buyers out of 400,000 US dollars, prosecutors have said.

Vincent Lopreto, 52, Marco Saverino, 34, and Paul Motta, 50, are accused of conning buyers of the British artist's work from countries including the UK, US, Italy, Taiwan and South Korea.

Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr said: "Vincent Lopreto is charged with resuming the same scheme to knock off Damien Hirst artworks that sent him to prison just 15 days after being released.

"The art market's demand for limited editions can lead to fake pieces with little value.

"In this case, the alleged fraud went beyond plain imitation, and the defendants are charged with deceiving a multitude of buyers into purchasing counterfeit art that was falsely passed off as genuine."

Lopreto, from New Orleans, created fake signed prints and marketed them as authentic with the help of Saverino and Motta, from Arizona, between October 2015 and February this year, prosecutors said.

Officials said Lopreto was sentenced to up to four years in prison in 2014 for forging work by the 52-year-old Bristol-born artist.