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Former Cape gallery co-founder accused of selling forged artwork

By Staff | Feb 10, 2016

The co-founder of a former, Cape Coral art gallery has been accused of selling forged artwork.

Eric Ian Hornak Spoutz, 32, of Mount Clemens, Michigan, was arrested and charged last week with one count of wire fraud. The federal charge was allegedly levied in connection to the sale of dozens of forged pieces by known American artists, like Willem De Kooning, Franz Kline and Joan Mitchell.

Spoutz was arrested on Feb. 3 in Los Angeles, California, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York. The count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

“As alleged, Eric Spoutz used false and fictitious provenance to peddle his forged artworks to unsuspecting buyers, claiming they were masterpieces,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

“Our office has a long history of investigating – and prosecuting – those who try to contaminate the art world with fraudulent artwork. Thanks to the outstanding investigative work by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), Spoutz’s alleged forgery mill is no longer in business,” he said in a statement.

It was unknown on Tuesday if Spoutz had acquired an attorney.

He could not be reached for comment on the allegations.

According to court documents, Spoutz sold artwork between 2010 and March 2015 that he falsely claimed were by well-known artists, using forged documents to convince buyers of their authenticity.

He sold dozens of fraudulent works through various channels, such as auction houses and on Ebay.

Spoutz reportedly attributed the pieces to De Kooning, Kline and Mitchell, among others.

He was publicly accused of selling forged works as early as 2005, after which he began selling them under various aliases, including Robert Chad Smith and John Goodman. To deceive his victims, Spoutz created and offered forged receipts, bills of sale and letters from dead attorneys and other individuals.

The documents reportedly indicated that he had inherited or purchased works by the artists.

Officials reported that investigators identified multiple inconsistencies and errors in Spoutz’s forged documents. Many of the purported transactions took place before he was born, and the letters included non-existent addresses, both for the sender and various parties referenced as sources of the artworks.

He also consistently used a single distinctive typesetting when forging documents that were allegedly authored by entirely different art galleries, in different decades, regarding unrelated transactions.

The case is being prosecuted by the office’s Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Unit.

Assistance U.S. Attorney Andrew C. Adams is handling the case.

Unknown victims may have purchased artwork from Spoutz under provenance documents using historical names such as Betty Parsons Gallery, Larry Larkin, Henry Hecht and Julius or Jay Wolf.

If you believe you are a victim and purchased a fraudulent painting, contact Special Agents Chris McKeogh or Meridith Savona with the New York Art Crime Team at (212) 384-1000.

Spoutz co-founded Gallery 928, once located at the Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village.

In previous articles, Spoutz identified himself as an art historian and museum exhibition curator. He stated that he placed artwork into the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and Dartmouth College, along with other institutions.

Spoutz also claimed to have curated the 2013 presidential inaugural exhibition at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, which is located in Washington, D.C.