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Woman sentenced to seven years in prison for selling bogus art

April 6, 2010 |  3:22 pm

A La Cañada Flintridge woman has been sentenced to seven years in prison for selling thousands of works of fake art -- including pieces ostensibly by Picasso, Dali and Chagall -- in rigged television auctions.

Kristine Eubanks, 52, was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty in 2007 to filing a false tax return, transporting stolen property and federal fraud. Prosecutors said she operated an art auction television show called the "Fine Art Treasures Gallery," which aired on Friday and Saturday nights on DirecTV and the Dish Network and claimed to sell art found at “estate liquidations all over the world.”

In 2007, Eubanks and her husband, Gerald Sullivan, admitted to selling the bogus works of art -- including purported Picasso lithographs -- with forged signatures and manipulating the auctions of legitimate pieces in a scam that ran from 2002 to 2006.

“If they had legitimate pieces, they would have phones ringing in the background just to drive up the price, when no one had actually called,” Assistant U.S. Atty. James Bowman said of the major frauds section.

The scam brought in more than $20 million and duped more than 10,000 collectors across the country, prosecutors said. Eubanks and Sullivan were arrested in 2006, when investigators seized $3.8 million and nearly 1,000 pieces of art.

The government is still notifying thousands of collectors who may have bought forgeries.

At Monday's sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge Gary A. Feess called the scheme “audacious in its scope” and “blatantly illegal,” prosecutors said.

Sullivan, 54, the company's accountant, is scheduled to be sentenced next month and faces a maximum of six years in prison on similar charges.

--Tony Barboza