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Sunday, March 22, 2020

Philip Righter: Art Forger, Tax Cheat, and Fraud

     Philip Righter was a fraud, a forger, a pretender, and a thief. Nothing about this West Hollywood man was on the level. He held himself out as a successful film producer and a serious collector of art. On his Instagram account he posted a photograph of himself wearing a tuxedo and holding an Oscar statue. He also claimed to be an Emmy and Grammy winner. Mr. Righter hadn't won any of these awards, and had only produced a short film in 2016 called "One Good Waiter." As for his collection of paintings, they were forgeries he had purchased cheaply on sites like eBay.

     Philip Righter was also a tax cheat. In 2015, he falsely reported on his federal tax form that he had donated valuable paintings to charity. He also claimed that thieves had broken into his home and stole $2.5 million worth of his art. Due to his phony charity deduction and the false theft claim, the government issued Righter a check for more than $100,000.

     While he was cheating on his taxes, Righter was purchasing paintings online that were painted to look like the work of painters Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michal Basquiat. He sold $758,000 worth of Haring and Basquiat fakes to an art gallery in Miami, Florida.

     To fool the buyer of these works into thinking they were real, Righter forged accompanying documents in the form of letters of authenticity from the painters' estates.

     In 2016, detectives with the Los Angeles Police Department began investigating Philip Righter for fraud and art forgery. Special Agents with the FBI's Art Crime Team from the Miami Field Division joined in the Righter investigation.

     In July 2018, FBI agents in Los Angeles took Philip Righter into custody of federal charges of mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.

     The 43-year-old forger and thief, on March 13, 2020, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of identity theft. At his sentencing before a federal judge scheduled for May 18, 2020, Righter faced up to 25 years in prison. Because he had pleaded guilty, his punishment won't be nearly that harsh. In this era of lenient sentences for nonviolent criminals, he might not even go to prison.

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