This lecture was part of the Divine Disorder Conference on the Conservation of Outsider Folk art that was organized and hosted by NCPTT. The conference was held February 15-16, 2012 on the campus of Northwestern University in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
NOTE: A transcript of these videos and closed captioning will be coming soon. Stay tuned.
Art Dealer Sentenced for Counterfeit Art Sales
Counterfeit Clementine Hunter Paintings
Press Release U.S. Attorney’s Office January 03, 2012 Western District of Louisiana (318) 676-3641
ALEXANDRIA, LA—United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced that Robert E. Lucky, Jr, 64, of New Orleans, was sentenced today to 25 months in federal prison and was ordered to pay $326,893 in restitution for mail fraud in connection with selling fake paintings attributed to Louisiana artist Clementine Hunter. Lucky was also sentenced to three years’ supervised release following his prison term and 200 hours of community service.
Forensic evidence collected during the investigation was analyzed by the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Va., the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training in Natchitoches, La., McCrone Associates Inc., in Westmont, Ill., and Orion Analytical LLC, in Williamstown, Mass., and revealed that the paintings sold by Lucky and the Toye’s were fakes. Other paintings obtained by the Toye’s were then resold by Lucky for a profit.
A significant number of non-authentic Hunter paintings were identified during the course of the investigation, to include five paintings which were seized from the Toye residence by the FBI in September of 2009 in Baton Rouge, La., and were forfeited to the U.S. government as part of William Toye’s guilty plea in federal court. The three-year investigation involved the efforts of FBI special agents in several FBI field offices, to include numerous interviews of victims, witnesses, and other individuals across the nation, from California to New York to Florida. The entire investigation was initiatied and coordinated from the FBI Alexandria Resident Agency in Alexandria, La. William Toye was previously arrested in the early 1970’s by the New Orleans Police Department on criminal charges related to the sell of several non-authentic Clementine Hunter paintings. At the time, the New Orleans case against Toye was never prosecuted.
William Toye, 80, his wife Beryl Ann Toye, 70, of Baton Rouge, and Robert Lucky were named in a four-count indictment charging all three defendants with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. William and Beryl Toye pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud collectors of Clementine Hunter paintings by misrepresenting the authenticity and origin of the paintings and were both sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to pay $426,393 in restitution.
The artist, Clementine Hunter, was an African-American folk artist who lived in Natchitoches Parish, La. Ms. Hunter began painting in the late 1930s and continued to paint until a few days before her death on January 1, 1988. The value of Ms. Hunter’s paintings vary and are actively sold on the open art market.
U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. Finley stated: “There is no doubt that Ms. Hunter was a gem of the State of Louisiana and our nation. Her artwork was her legacy to all of us. Robert Lucky and the Toye’s not only committed fraud as it related to her paintings, but they also diminished her legacy, all for greed. We hope this case serves as a deterrence to those who are involved in similar activities. It is incumbent upon all citizens of Louisiana to protect the wonderful art shared with us by our native artists. With the conclusion of this case, a question that began over 40 years ago has finally been answered. A special thank you goes out to the prosecutors and agents who worked tirelessly to make sure that justice was served in this case. We hope the focus can now be on the great work of Clementine Hunter and trying to make the victims in this case whole.”
The case was investigated by the Special Agent Randolph J. Deaton, IV, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Alexandria Resident Agency, and is being prosecuted by First Assistant United States Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook and Assistant United States Attorney Cytheria D. Jernigan.
Randolph J. “Randy” Deaton IV is a Senior Resident Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New Orleans Division. Deaton has been with the FBI since November of 1998, where he was first stationed in the New York Office. His usual investigations include white collar crime, violent crime, special territorial jurisdiction crime, and counterterrorism matters. Deaton’s other duties with the FBI are Firearms Instructor, Police Instructor, and Interview and Interrogation Instructor. Randy is a Louisiana native and a LSU Baton Rouge graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Quantitative Business Analysis, Computer Science option.
Speaker 1: They have not pulled the plug on me yet, I’ll try to make this brief because I know I ran over my time. Again, Mr. Barabee’s analysis as the knuckle dragging FBI agent, okay are they fake or are they not? That’s what I want to know. Picking back up, I laughed about this, this showed up in the State Times morning advocate paper, I was laughing with some friends of mine while we were doing some following up on, and what I said was, “when you got a cartoon made about you, you’ve made it I guess, I don’t know”. So this showed up, this is a little bit better image of it and the artist was nice enough to send me a nice hard quality resolution of what I can get out of the newspaper.
In addition to McGrown, the FBI and the U.S attorney’s office, they had the most of this contract. We contracted with a Orion Analytical like Mr. Barabee, Jamie Morden, super nice guy to deal with, extremely intelligent, very thorough just like Mr. Barabee, he looked at several I was real nervous about boxing all that stuff up. I sent him the paints and several originals and several fakes, several forgeries, sent that to him. Again, I said earlier the stuff I’m talking about, it’s been talked about in court, a lot of the McGrown’s and Orion’s findings were published. They are in the court records, it’s open to the public, anybody as long as you pay the expense of photocopying or whatever, you can get this information.
So Orion issued a report based upon documents, I sent copies of documents, photographs that I sent basically saying “Okay, the question was the forgeries for these reasons, the originals are originals for these reasons”. The stuff that the FBI sees from the Toye’s home is consistent with the material, the paints, the techniques used to create the question, paintings the forgeries. Basically saying that once the FBI sends us that were questionable, they’re forgeries, they’re not by the same person that created the original Clementine Hunters that were so graciously given to us by the Mr. Jack Britten and his family and Mr. Whitehead to use during this investigation.
As an investigator, felt pretty good about that. I think the prosecutors felt pretty good. McCrone issued their report, not to go into it but McCrone basically said “yeah, there is consistency in the forgeries, there’s consistency in the originals but they’re inconsistent, the groups.”
June 2006, we get our first guilty plead, Mr. Toye decides to plead guilty. He pleads to a felony of conspiracy, the conspiracy counted the indictment. The FBI, someone in their 80’s, late 70’s, it’s not our normal subjects that we normally go after but people at some point, you keep committing crimes, you got to do something.
So Mr. Toye decides to plead guilty, this is the press release that’s issued. Oh this is a great story here, there is Mr. Toye on the New York Times website with his cane, he had a cane by this point. After he plead guilty, that’s the article there. Again, that’s a New York’s Time photo there of Mr. Toye.
Maybe he was a sword yeilder in another time, I don’t know. Funny story, I’m standing in the US attorney’s office after we get out of court, I’m standing in the federal courthouse in Lafayette, Louisiana after the guilty plea and I’m with Mr. Toye’s defense council and I’m with Alec Vanhook, the prosecutor and Cytherea Journigan, the other prosecutor and we’re looking out the glass in front of us and I see Mr. Toye going after the New York Time’s photographer and another photographer and he’s swinging that cane like Mort McGuire swinging that bat for the wall and he connects too and I’m thinking “oh my god, he just committed a felony, the judge just told him he’s not supposed to commit any type of crime, state, federal, local, whatever. That’s a felony assault on the
steps of the federal courthouse, which I knew I didn’t want to touch that one with a 10 foot pole.
Again, that’s the same photo but on the Baton Rouge paper. I’m standing, a couple days later on a river in Colorado on the family vacation in June and I get an email from someone saying that Mr. Toye got his Wikipedia page. I’m reading my blackberry, oh man I got a fishing rod in one hand and a blackberry in the other. So Mr. Toye is an old forger in Baton Rouge, he made it big on that one. Mrs. Toye shortly there after in August, plead guilty also to a felony conspiracy count. Not too long after that, Tom Spickahum publishes the article about Robbie Lucky, they set a court date, he’s supposed to plead guilty. On August 8, 2011, the piece comes out, Mr. Lucky plead guilty to a felony, but not the conspiracy count but a separate mail fraud count.
Maine Antiques Digest in December 2011 publishes the article in one of their editions. 23 victims are named in the case, I believe there are a lot more out there. There were victims who did not corporate with us in this investigation, there are many more victims I believe out there that I just don’t know about. I don’t know if I will ever know about, ever.
This is the sentence that judge Dedrall, the federal judge in Alexandria handed done for Mr. Toye, plead to the felony conspiracy charge. Mr and Mrs. Toye, they’re up in age, a lot of problems with their conditions that was taken into account during sentencing by the judge. I think the judge did a very good job in looking at all the evidence and coming up with the appropriate sentences. 2 years supervised release probation, over $400,000 in restitution paid to the named victims. Kind of unique, I don’t work a lot of art forgery cases, I’ve only worked one. But the judge ordered that Mr. Toye should assist investigators in identifying and cataloging every Clementine forgery that he created and that he will also re-sign, upon the request of any victim, re-sign with his name any Clementine forgeries that he created and that victims want signed by him. We’re going through the process of that. No fine.
Mrs. Toye was sentenced the same day, again this is a open court, any of you guys could of saw this. She plead to the felony conspiracy count. She got a year of home confinement, 2 years supervised release, same amount as restitution and again, she should assist in the identification and cataloging of any Clementine Hunter forgeries created by her husband, William Toye. Also, no fine.
After that, someone started a “Justice for Clementine” Facebook that’s still out there now. I’m sure there will be something about this conference on that when it’s over or later today. Some very nasty comments on that too. Press release goes out for the sentencing of Mr. Lucky on January 3, 2012 basically wrapping up the whole case for the public. I added some verbiage in here, we had FBI agents interviewing people all over the country. Thank you to all the field officers that got requests from me and went out and located these victims, interviewed them and this is like the 3rd time they have been interviewed by the FBI in the last 20 years, I’m sure they didn’t like that and then photographing the works of art, the forgeries that we were interested in. We also named the labs
including “The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training” here in Natchitoches giving them credit for assisting in the investigation.
Mr. Lucky received the sentence, he plead to that mail fraud charge, he got 25 months imprisonment with the federal Bureau of Prisons, he will be in jail for 25 months, he won’t be in jail for 2 months and then out on good behavior, it’s not really how the federal system is set up. He got 3 years of supervised release probation, once he gets out of prison, he has to be supervised, including meeting with probation officers for the next 3 years when he gets out and he was ordered to pay over $300,000 in restitution to the named victims that he sold paintings to. He was also ordered to serve 200 hours of community service and according to Judge Durell, preferably something benefiting the art community. I’m not sure what that would be and he was not given a fine.
This is what I learned about William Toye through the investigation. He was a doctor, of what I have no idea but he became a doctor at some point, an art forger, an inventor, he was a New York Metropolitan Opera employee, symphony conductor, opera scenery designer, a draftsman, and according to one person we interviewed in Baton Rouge who witnessed William Toye tear up, we don’t know whether it was a fake, forgery or a real piece of art, in her presence and claimed that he was a patron and protector of the arts.
Just in summary, this investigation had an excellent prosecution behind it, Alec Vanhook, the first assistant in Shreveport, Cytherea Journigan, who is now an assistant US attorney, she was in Shreveport, she is now in Baltimore, Maryland prosecuting cases. Highly intelligent people, aggressive, very aggressive important investigator to have an aggressive prosecution behind them. It’s unbelievable, it makes me sleep better at night. This case dealt with folk art, not fine art. I could find no reference to any other case by any type of law enforcement agency that concerned folk art. FBI works a lot of cases with fine art thefts and forgeries and frauds, nothing really with folk art. Kind of unique, there might be some out there, I just don’t know about it, I couldn’t find anybody who could tell me about it. So number one, that was unique in that case.
We stopped an almost 40 year career by mostly unknown forger, Mr. Toye. I interviewed Mr. Toye at the search in his driveway and obtained a confession from him about what he did and I remember walking away from that thinking “I just solved a forty year mystery here”. I never thought I’d be in that position. Unique about this case, we had such a large number of forgeries that we identified that I actually have pictures of, some that I have pictures of that have been identified as forgeries, I may never know where they are. I’m only going to be an FBI agent so long, I’m only going to be on this earth so long, they’re going to pop up eventually. Hopefully I kept a good enough record where some investigator later on will inherit my work and they’ll pop up and they’ll have some information there. So that was very unique.
I think it was over 200 or so that we actually identified and we have records of. We used 5 different labs to include the US secret service. Our lab in Quantico contracted the US secret service lab about some paper material associated with some of those false letters of provenance that we had. MrCrone, Orion Analytical in Massachusetts, the FBI laboratory for the handwriting and the materials analysis on the documents, secret service and also, the lab here in Natchitoches, “The National center for Preservation Technology and Training”. Another unique aspect to this case is that we had a lot, and the government accrued a lot of expense on this, we had a extremely large number of paintings that were analyzed by two different private labs. I’m not aware of any state, local, federal case where that many paintings were analyzed in forensic analysis performed on that many paintings.
So in closing, I thank the National center for Preservation Technology and Training for hosting this conference, having poor little ol me as a speaker, the work that they did for us and the openness to partner up with the FBI. The FBI always values it’s relationship it has with other government agencies and in the private sector too. It was very nice to have that and right here at home to protect Louisiana’s history. Also, to Mr. Whitehead, Mr. Jack Britain and the Britain family for letting us use their original paintings which made me nervous to keep for such a long time, the victims in the case that cooperated with the investigation and did the right thing and then the prosecution staff, Mr Vanhook and Mrs. Cytherea Journigan for being so aggressive and taking on this very complex, very crazy case and we had a pretty successful ending to it I believe and the support staff with the FBI and also at the US attorney’s office in Shreveport. I kind of wish I would have another case like this but I kind of wish I wouldn’t have another case like this so thank you for having me today.
Questions & Answers
Jason Church: Stay here for a minute. All right at this time do we have any questions for any of our three speakers on the Clementine case.
Randolph Deaton: I just want to say one thing. [inaudible 00:00:14]
Jason Church: Come on up Tommy
Randolph Deaton: Last I heard Mr. and Mrs. Toye are living in an assisted living facility in Baton Rouge apparently doing well.
Tommy Whitehead: Their house was foreclosed upon and they put them in the assisted living center and they are on Medicaid so we’re paying for them to be there. They draw social security. They take out their social security insurance their left with $38 according to the judge in court that day and he has required that they donate, each one, put $30 a month to the restitution fund. At the rate of $60 a month and they owe $426,000 it’s going to be awhile but they are in a Medicaid funding nursing home that we’re paying for in Baton Rouge.
Jason Church: Any questions for this group?
Speaker 4: [inaudible 00:01:12]
Tommy Whitehead: You talk about that.
Randolph Deaton: [Orion 00:01:23] Analytical found a lot of cat hair embedded in the paints of the forgeries. When I talked about just in summary I kind of glossed over it real fast but the conditions that we found the house, the conditions with the animals living in the house, the paints that were present, the tools that were present in the house were according to Mr. Jamie Morton’s findings with O’Ryan … The forgeries that he analyzed, the materials used, the stuff that he found on the paints was consistent with what we found in that house. So there was a lot of cat hair embedded in dry paint basically.
Jason Church: Other questions?
Randolph Deaton: Yes ma’am.
Speaker 5: [inaudible 00:02:18]
Randolph Deaton: Okay. The question was was there a difference between what they pay for the forgeries and what somebody would pay today for an actual…
Speaker 5: [inaudible 00:02:37]
Randolph Deaton: From the records that I reviewed and the interviews that I’ve conducted and the reports I read on other interviews, some of them were sold for amounts that seemed a little excessive and some of them were sold for probably on the spot. I don’t appraise that stuff but from what I know and from I’m talking to people I think they were sold about right but I know there were some that were sold that were … It all depends like any type of [art 00:03:19] it all depends on what someone’s willing to pay.
Tommy Whitehead: I just want to add a footnote because I know some of the victims. I found them. What happened was they charged based on what they thought you could pay. You might sell me a fake one for $3000 and they sold the wife of an oil company man in Texas they charged $12,000. It was kind of pay as you could.
Jason Church: Other questions? Yeah …
Speaker 6: [inaudible 00:03:44]
Randolph Deaton: The FBI has a mechanism to document forgeries, [wanted 00:04:07] works … I know there is a Art Loss Register but they mostly deal with stolen works. As I said earlier, I’m going to be retiring soon, not soon but you know I’ve got to retire at some point and go on with life. I won’t be in this world forever but I have it documented and I have the collection of forgery images organized so that somebody could easily pick it up and look at it if they had a suspect one come up and see if we’ve ever had contact with it, who was the previous owner, or if we have it documented as being attributed to the [Toys 00:04:54] and we just don’t know where it’s at.
There are some victims that just did not cooperate with us for whatever reason. I have pictures of forgeries that I don’t know where they’re at and they could be with those people. But those people they pass off and they decease …
Tommy Whitehead: What about the [Reniors 00:05:12] and the [Degas 00:05:13] that you found? Are they posted anywhere?
Randolph Deaton: No they’re not posted anywhere and unfortunately there was no court order in place with this investigation. Like the [Matissee 00:05:25] for instance, technically the guy that bought it from Mr. Toy to sell later on and make a profit, I’ve got to give that back. I ask these people to do the right things and mark these things so they don’t come up again because I don’t want to have anymore victims in the future. But we are going to do what we can before this case is closed out to make sure everything is documented properly. Hopefully some kind of way that … If somebody has a questionable one they can look at least on some webpage and see, “Well the FBI has a picture of this and they’ve been looking for it.”
Jason Church: Other questions?
Randolph Deaton: Yes ma’am.
Speaker 7: [inaudible 00:06:07]
Randolph Deaton: Personally, it was historically …
Speaker 7: [inaudible 00:06:42]
Randolph Deaton: We’re very limited on resources number one. We’re very limited on funding but considering the number of victims in this case that we knew about from the start, considering the historical significance of the case, considering more than one defendant in the case, considering how long this fraud had been going on was the main drive for myself and I’m sure the prosecutors, though I can’t speak for them, I’m sure that was in the thinking of why should we take on this case. Victims have rights and we should have been doing the right thing a long time ago on this and for some reason it just didn’t happen but I think in this case now with the outcome we’ve stopped it. We’ve stopped the fraud. People can think these people are innocent it doesn’t matter to me. It was a fraud, it was a crime and hopefully we stopped it and this won’t happen again. Hopefully it will deter other people from committing the same crime.
I was telling Ms. Leigh [Cogan 00:08:15] earlier that the FBI starts cases all the time and a lot of our great cases have started with someone calling us and say, “Hey somebody’s trying to sell me this painting and I know it’s a fake.” I don’t know and until we get calls like that, until we get information like that you know we don’t know about crimes. I would encourage since you guys are in this conservation field and have this interest that if you think a crime is being committed contact a law enforcement agency whether it be the FBI or not. The FBI National Art Crime Team has agents stationed around the country. There may be one agent that covers Louisiana, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi. I’m not on that team, I’m not one of those agents but there are agents that know a lot more than I do about art and the frauds that are committed with them. I would encourage anybody that has information to contact the FBI and report it because if you don’t do it people are going to get victimized over and over and over again until somebody does.
Speaker 8: [inaudible 00:09:22]
Randolph Deaton: Yes ma’am. The question was what is the interaction between the FBI and local law enforcement in this particular example the side of the New York City Police Department working the FBI. Alexander, Louisiana is not the hub of the art world … New York City probably that’s why the New York Police Department has dedicated detectives investigators that have specialty. The FBI has a very good agent working in our New York office and I’m sure there’s others up there that have specialties in art fraud, art forgery investigations. I don’t have that … I’ve worked a lot of fraud cases but never an art fraud case but fraud is fraud. You can apply the same investigative tools to a white collar mortgage fraud as you could to this and that’s what I did.
In the bigger cities you’re going have agents that probably deal with local and state law enforcement agencies a lot more than I would on something like this. I deal with local and state agencies a lot on other type of investigations but there is really no mechanism, no free flow of information when it comes to art forgery because there’s just not a lot of that around here. If there was, nothing that would reach this caliber of being a prosecutable case like this but in larger cities Chicago, L.A. for instance, you’re going to have dedicated agents and you’re going to have dedicated local law enforcement investigators that it’s their sole job is to target this stuff. We don’t have that luxury in little small Alexander, Louisiana.
Jason Church: Thank you Randy.
Randolph Deaton: Thank you.
Jason Church: Randy Deaton, Tommy Whitehead and Joe [Barabee 00:11:19] will be around for questions more. We’re going to take a break for refreshments out … One thing to keep in mind that we haven’t really talked about is a lot of the paintings that are shown in these presentations we have hung in a gallery adjacent to here. They are all labeled whether they were from Clementine or the Toys. Feel free to look at them, bring up your own conclusions. We have magnifying glass in there. You can see Mr. Barabee was talking about the severe dirt that was rubbed into them to age them because I guess if you’re painting on a plantation you obviously drop it on the ground quite frequently.
When you leave the exit door here, if you’ll just go through the next doors to your right you’ll see the gallery where they’re hung. You’re welcome to. On the second day, tomorrow evening, We’ll have more time in there and Mr. Whitehead and Mr. Barabee have agreed to go in and talk a little bit more about the paintings themselves if anybody is interested so there is plenty of time in that. By all means, if we want to head back down to the area where you registered and had coffee this morning there’s material there for another break.
Tommy Whitehead: Well in the exhibit there is a Christmas tree, a fake Christmas tree that will [not be here tomorrow 00:12:32]. So if you want to see the fake Christmas tree [inaudible 00:12:34].
Jason Church: Right. It’s only here as long as the agent can watch it. Okay.