Brian Walshe, a Massachusetts man who was arrested after his wife went missing, is the subject of renewed scrutiny after the investigation into him brought back to light his alleged sales of fake Andy Warhol paintings.
In 2016, Walshe, with some assistance from his wife Ann, listed two paintings that they claimed were made by Warhol as a part of his 1979 “Shadows” series on eBay for a combined price of $100,000. According to the original complaint, written that same year by FBI special agent Kristin D. Koch, the item description of the paintings claimed that Walshe had “terribly overpaid” for the pair of paintings in a 2007 Christie’s auction for $240,000. He was offering them for $100,000 on eBay, he explained, because “it is much cheaper and because Christie’s won’t be able to auction our pieces till May 2017.”
Due to some dire financial need, Walshe was willing to offer the pieces for much less than they were worth. Walshe also wrote that the pieces were numbered and registered with the Warhol Foundation, and that they had additional provenance documents from Christie’s.
Two employees from Los Angeles’s Revolver Gallery flew to Boston, where Walshe resides, to pick up and pay for the two paintings, which they bought for a total of $80,000. One representative of the gallery waited in the car while an assistant went into the Four Seasons hotel to retrieve the paintings and hand over a cashiers check made out to Walshe’s business account.
The assistant couldn’t see the authentication stamps from the Warhol Foundation because a frame was covering the backs of the paintings. She sent a photo of the paintings to her boss, who was waiting in the car, and he approved the transaction. However, after the Revolver Gallery employees compared the pictures they had originally seen of the paintings on eBay to the works they had in their hands, they saw significant differences and demanded a refund.
In the coming months, Walshe would allegedly delay, and according to the complaint, he ended up sending only $30,000 of the $80,000 he owed Revolver Gallery. After some time, Revolver Gallery got the FBI involved.
Upon an investigation, the FBI found that Walshe was, in fact, in possession of two possibly authentic Warhol paintings that he had stolen from a South Korean friend he had made in the one year he attended Carnegie Mellon.
The FBI said that Walshe had offered to sell numerous works his friend held, including a porcelain statue from the Tang Dynasty, two Keith Haring Prints, and the two Warhol paintings in question. But after Walshe took them, his friend was never able to get back the two Warhols that Walshe had taken from him.
When Walshe posted the paintings for sale on eBay, he had allegedly taken pictures of these stolen paintings to land the deal with Revolver Gallery, but passed off two faked paintings to Revolver Gallery when it came time to sell. Although Walshe faces counts of wire fraud and other crimes, he has not yet been charged, in part because there is another case open against him that concerns whether he stole from his late father’s estate after destroying his father’s will, according to the New York Post.
Walshe’s wife, Ana, was declared missing by her company on January 4. Walshe was arrested and appeared in court on Monday after investigators found that he had violated the terms of his probation, reported Fox News.
Investigators found blood in the family basement and a damaged knife. They also found that Walshe went to Home Depot, a violation of his house probation, to purchase $450 worth of cleaning supplies and had Googled “how to dispose of a 115-pound woman’s body.” The Walshes have three young sons.