ALEXANDRIA — A New Orleans art dealer pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in a scheme to pass off forged paintings as the works of Louisiana folk artist Clementine Hunter.
Robert E. Lucky, 64, of New Orleans, was the last of three defendants accused in a four-count indictment filed last year over the forged paintings.
Lucky pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Lucky utilized various sources to obtain forged Hunter paintings, including paintings from his co-defendants, William Toye, 80, and Toye’s wife, Beryl Ann Toye, 70, both of Baton Rouge, according to court records.
Lucky then resold the fake paintings for profit, including a pair of forgeries he sold to one collector for $18,000, according to the indictment.
Hunter, who died in 1988 at the age of 101, taught herself to paint while living in Natchitoches Parish. Her nationally recognized paintings depict scenes of plantation life and each can sell for thousands of dollars.
William Toye pleaded guilty June 6 in Lafayette to conspiring to defraud collectors of Clementine Hunter paintings by misrepresenting the authenticity and origin of the paintings.
Beryl Toye pleaded guilty Aug. 2 to conspiracy.
The Toyes each face a possible maximum 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when they are sentenced Oct. 21, according to the release.
Lucky will be sentenced on the same date and faces a possible maximum 20-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine, the release said.
U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley called Hunter “a gem of the state of Louisiana.”
“Her artwork was her legacy to all of us,” Finley said in a statement. “Robert Lucky not only committed a fraud as it relates to her paintings, but he also diminished her legacy, all for greed. We hope this case serves as a deterrence to those who are involved in similar activities.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.