WEST HOLLYWOOD— On Wednesday, July 15, a West Hollywood man pleaded guilty in a federal court for trying to sell phony paintings he claimed were created by famous modern artists. He was ordered to serve five years in prison.
Philip Righter, 43, claims on his Instagram that he is an Oscar, Grammy, and Emmy winner. Additionally, that he is a magazine publisher and show producer. On IMDb, his biography says that he is an executive at both The Walt Disney Company and NBC Universal. However, he has one credit as a producer for the 2016 short film, “The Good Waiter.”
Righter was sentenced in Miami on charges of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and tax fraud. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke of the Southern District of Florida. Cooke also handed down a different five-year sentence in Miami in which Righter also tried to sell phony pieces. He will serve both sentences simultaneously.
Between 2016 and June of 2018, Richter sold the bogus artworks of modern artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. He also falsified documents to authenticate their validity, embossing stamps used by the estates of Basquiat and Haring. Many of the pieces were used as income tax write-offs or collateral for loans he never repaid.
He initially sold the fraudulent artworks under his name. After he was interviewed by the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department for the previous instance in Miami, he began using other people’s names.
One case of this was in August 2017 when he listed a fake 1983 piece by Basquiat with the word “Samo” written on it on an art sale website. The website sold it for $500,000 and later had to refund the amount to the buyer. Righter also admitted to knowingly including a false W-2 and documentation of donating a piece to charity. This resulted in him receiving a refund of $54,858.
In total, Righter’s scheme attempted to con victims out of over $6 million.