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Man charged with selling stolen Andy Warhol artwork November 27, 2009

Posted by jefhenninger in News.
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James S. Bier has been charged with mail and wire fraud in Manhattan federal court, in connection with a joint investigation conducted by the FBI and the Westchester County Police Department into his possession of numerous pieces of notable artwork believed to have been stolen from his former employer. The federal charges relate to his sale of one of those pieces of artwork, a Heinz 57 box created by the artist Andy Warhol, to an unwitting collector in New York City.

According to the Complaint:

In July 2008, Biear sold a Andy Warhol silkscreen on a wooden crate mimicking a Heinz 57 case of ketchup (the “Warhol Heinz 57 box”) to an art collector in New York City for approximately $220,000. In connection with the sale, Biear claimed that the Warhol Heinz 57 box had been gifted to him from his uncle who had legal title to the Warhol Heinz 57 box. In truth and in fact, Andy Warhol had gifted the Warhol Heinz 57 box to an art collector (the “Art Collector”) in 1964. In or around April 2007, the Warhol Heinz 57 box was noticed to be missing from the Art Collector’s New York residence after a birthday party. Biear had been employed by the Art Collector at the time that the Warhol Heinz 57 box was believed to have been stolen.

Photo of Heinz Box Painting by Andy Warhol

Biear is charged with one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud. He also faces charges brought by the Westchester District Attorney’s Office. According to the Felony Complaint filed in Westchester County court, Biear is charged with Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the second degree in connection with Biear’s possession of artwork also believed to have been stolen from his prior employer, specifically, an ink drawing by Francis Picabia titled, “Jean Cocteau par Francis Picabia.” If convicted, he  faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.


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