A London art dealer who defrauded investors and then fled to an island in the Pacific Ocean was sentenced Monday to seven years in prison by a federal judge in Manhattan.
The dealer, Inigo Philbrick, has been incarcerated for nearly two years since his 2020 arrest on the island of Vanuatu. That time in custody will count towards his sentence, officials said.
Mr. Philbrick pleaded guilty to wire transfer fraud in November and agreed to lose $86 million.
He was a brash fixture in the world of post-war and contemporary art, traveling on private jets, renting villas in Ibiza and wearing handmade Italian suits.
Philbrick, an American citizen who had attended Goldsmiths, University of London, which has a prestigious arts program, opened a gallery and consulting firm when he was in his twenties. His father, Harry Philbrick, is the former director of the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Conn.
In describing his plan, prosecutors said Mr. Philbrick had sold a total of more than 100 percent ownership of a work of art to multiple investors; sold works of art or used them as collateral for loans without the knowledge of their co-owners; and provided “fraudulent” documents to “artificially inflate the value of works of art.”
“Inigo Philbrick grew his supposedly successful art business through collateral and reselling of fractional shares in high-dollar contemporary art,” Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District, said in a statement released Monday. “Unfortunately, his success was based on brazen lies, including hidden ownership interests, false documents, and even a made-up art collector.”
Federal guidelines called for a sentence of about 10 to 12 years, and prosecutors asked for a substantial term. But an attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, pleaded for leniency in a Manhattan courtroom Monday as a crowd of supporters of Mr Philbrick watched from the gallery.
“We ask for mercy,” said Mr. Lichtman v. Judge Sidney H. Stein of the Manhattan Federal Court, saying that Mr. Philbrick was “derailed” but was no longer the same person who had scammed investors.
Mr. Philbrick, dressed in a tan prison robe, told Judge Stein that he felt deep shame and shame over his actions and that he would work for the rest of his life to restore the squandered trust and repay the debts.
“I apologize without reservation or restraint,” he said, calling his behavior “outrageous and unforgivable.”
Judge Stein noted that Mr Philbrick had “great potential” and “all the social connections” but was still “guilty of this massive fraud”.
After delivering his sentence, Judge Stein urged Mr. Philbrick to use his time in prison as “effectively” as possible.
“You can contribute a lot when you’re locked up,” he said. “I wish you lots of luck.”
Moments later, just before being escorted out of the courtroom, Mr. Philbrick lowered a facemask he was wearing, turned to his supporters in the gallery, held a hand to his chest and blew a kiss.