Art Dealer Accused of Selling Millions in Fakes Arrested in Spain

Jose Carlos Bergantinos Diaz is wanted in the US for fraud.

April 20, 2014— -- A Spanish art dealer suspected of selling millions of dollars of counterfeit work over a period of more than 15 years was arrested in a luxury hotel in Seville, southern Spain, officials said Sunday.

Jose Carlos Bergantinos Diaz was wanted by authorities in the United States in connection with the forgery and peddling of supposed works from great masters like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. His arrest on Friday left him so surprised, he had to be checked over by medical workers, authorities told The Associated Press.

Bergantinos Diaz's Mexican-born longtime partner, Glafira Rosales, 55, was indicted in August 2013, accused of selling supposed undiscovered modernist works by famous artists that turned out to be counterfeit. Rosales was charged at the time with selling 63 works priced at a total of more than $30 million to two Manhattan galleries.

The fakes, purportedly painted by artists such as Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline, were in fact done by an unnamed painter known to the couple out his studio in Queens, New York, authorities said. The artworks were artificially made to look older through exposure to extreme heat, cold and the outdoors, authorities said.

Art galleries and purchasers were told by the couple that the pieces belonged to an unnamed collector, according to the indictment. Around 50 of the works were said to belong to a person of Eastern European descent who supposedly inherited the paintings from a relative.

The galleries in turn sold the works for $80 million, making nearly $48 million in profits, prosecutors said.

Bergantinos Diaz is set to appear in court this week, when it is expected that a judge will likely grant an extradition to the United States.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.