A suspect who was a recent mayoral candidate in Mexico was arrested in New York for allegedly peddling four purported pieces by modern art icons Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Angel Pereda, 49, was arrested in New York on Friday based on an allegation of wire fraud in what federal law enforcement described as an attempt to get millions of dollars in exchange for fake works of art, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York said in a statement.
Pereda, also known as Angel Luis Pereda Eguiluz, recently ran unsuccessfully for the mayor of the central Mexican city of San Andrés Cholula, known for its proximity to the Great Pyramid of Cholula, according to Mexican press accounts.
News accounts indicate the suspect also runs an eponymous foundation.
No connection was made between the allegations against Pereda and his spring campaign, although an FBI agent investigating the case, Christopher McKeogh, noted in the criminal complaint against the suspect that he was the subject of “news articles referring to an apparent recent municipal election.”
The federal public defender’s office for the southern district of New York Mexican consulate in New York City did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
McKeogh alleges that Pereda attempted to sell multiple fake artworks, including of Basquiat’s “Glory Boys Kingdom,” a vase and painting by Haring, and a collaborative painting by Basquiat and Haring, to various auction houses.
Pieces by Basquiat and Haring have brought big numbers at auction. In 2017 a Basquait painting was sold for a then-U.S record of $110.5 million.
In late 2020 at least two auction houses in New York City discovered pieces being peddled to them were fake through the Keith Haring Foundation, federal officials said. In one case a Haring piece was said to have been owned by the “Pareda Family, Mexico,” they said.
A person “acting at the direction of the FBI” told Pereda on June 23 that one such piece, by Basquiat, was fake but that it would be flipped to a potential buyer for $6 million if Pereda could come up with fake documents showing its provenance, which he allegedly did, the complaint alleges.
“PEREDA expected to receive a portion of the revenue of the sale of this fraudulent painting,” the filing said.
In one case, thousands of dollars were wired to an account held by Pereda in Mexico for the purpose of “purchasing a painting,” it said.
It’s not clear what became of Pereda after his arrest. He’s not listed in an online database as a federal inmate. The charge of wire fraud against him carries with it a maximum sentence of 20 years if successfully prosecuted.
The FBI was still investigating the suspect and asked anyone with information about him to step forward.