An Escondido man, Jason Alan Harrington, 38, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of wire fraud and to defrauding 15 art galleries and collectors out of more than $1.1 million by selling them forgeries, mainly of the famed “street artist” artist Richard Hambleton.
A story in the Union-Tribune described the Escondido man as “a native San Diegan with a graphic art design background.”
Before the arrest, Harrington was known to police for many drug possession convictions, probation revocations and failures to appear in court. Police arrested him at the U.S.-Mexican border on March 21, and found he had two credit cards in the names of other people and a fake Nevada driver’s license.
Although art forgery has been around for centuries, criminal prosecutions are extremely rare. It is even more rare when it involves forging work of a living artist.
Harrington reportedly began his forging activities when in September 2019 he contacted a gallery that specialized in African American artists and asked whether it was interested in a work by Barkley Hendricks, whose works are featured in museums in New York, Washington D.C. and London.
He then reached out to individual collectors and sold them Hendricks forgeries. Suspicion grew among several of those who bought the forgeries and eventually the FBI began to conduct an investigation.
As part of his plea deal, Harrington has agreed to pay more than $1.1 million in restitution.