Manhattan Antiquities Dealer Pleads Guilty to Manufacturing Thousands of Forgeries
For nearly 40 years, Mehrdad Sadigh sold prized artifacts from ancient civilizations spanning from Mesopotamia to the Byzantine Empire and beyond. Or so his unsuspecting clients thought. Now, Sadigh has pled guilty to seven felony counts—including forgery and grand larceny—in New York's State Supreme Court.
During court proceedings last week, prosecutors drew on evidence gathered by the Manhattan district attorney's antiquities trafficking unit and Federal Homeland Security agents to paint a picture of what they estimated to be one of the biggest antiquities-forging operations in the country based on sales figures and longevity.
From a workspace located behind his Manhattan showroom, Sadigh developed an involved process to pass off common crafts as recently unearthed archaeological finds. Investigations show that he varnished, spray-painted, and belt-sanded fakes in order to fetch thousands, creating the illusion of "an antique patina through paint, chemical processes, and the addition of dirt to their surfaces," as noted by The New York Times.
Presented with a mountain of evidence exposed after two undercover federal investigators paid $4,000 each for two artifacts of supposed Egyptian and Roman origin, Sadigh admitted in court that he "sold thousands of fraudulent antiquities to countless unsuspecting collectors" over a three-decade period. Sales, which were made in person and via mail order, came complete with phony certificates of authenticity.That roster of collectors may have included the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, which cancelled an exhibition of Egyptian and Mesopotamian artifacts after an art history professor cast doubts on the collection's authenticity. That's not to mention more run-of-the-mill dissatisfied customers, whose negative reviews Sadigh paid an outside service to hide from those digging into the authenticity of his wares online, the dealer admitted in court.
It's suspected to have been word-of-mouth marketing that ultimately led to Sadigh's undoing. Dealers accused of trafficking looted artifacts tipped off the district attorney's antiquities trafficking unit to Sadigh, saying they hoped the unit would investigate "the guy selling all the fakes."
Now, that guy is likely out of the business for good. The Manhattan district attorney's office filed a sentencing memorandum asking for five years' probation for Sadigh, and a permanent ban from dealing antiquities "both genuine and fake." As for those who've always had a sneaking suspicion that the sarcophagus purchased a few blocks from the Empire State Building might not be the real deal, it might be time for a closer look.
-- Sent from my Linux system.