US seizes over 2,200 pieces of artwork

By Katie Zezima ,AP

NEWARK, New Jersey — A federal prosecutor in New Jersey says the government has seized a massive trove of works of art that were used to launder money raised through fraud. They were appraised at nearly US$16 million.

The main part of the shipment arrived in New Jersey last year from Texas on an 18-wheel truck — its contents a mystery.

After five days of inventory, the haul proved to be significant: more than 1,100 pieces of art, mostly works by some of America’s most influential photographers, including Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston.

The valuable shipment was moved again to New York, but instead of being carefully exhibited in a home in Spain as planned, it ended up in the hands of federal authorities. By the end of an investigation, authorities had seized more than 2,200 works of art.

On Friday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark announced a Feb. 22 court filing that alleges the artwork was purchased with money collected in a scheme that sold fake credits for renewable energy. The complaint seeks to force the owner to forfeit the works.

Authorities said they were seized from a warehouse in New York in July weeks after being moved from Newark and readied for shipment to Spain via Amsterdam. The works include numerous prints by Stieglitz, including one of his famous artist wife, Georgia O’Keefe, that sold for US$675,000. An Edward Steichen print titled “Greta Garbo for Vanity Fair Hollywood” was purchased for US$75,000.