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LIC sculptor pleads guilty to forging original pieces

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A Rego Park craftsman who owns a foundry in Long Island City pleaded guilty last Thursday to making unauthorized copies of original metal sculptures and selling them as originals, defrauding buyers of $140,000, said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Brian Ramnarine, 49, of 63-33 98th Place, admitted to making copies of sculptures created by artists Saint Clair Cemin, Joel Fisher and Kenny Scharf and passing them off as originals to two private collectors. He agreed to pay $100,000 in restitution, Brown said.

"The defendant has admitted that he defrauded the victims and cheated the artists who created these works," Brown said. "Today's disposition has ensured the certainty of a felony conviction and that restitution will be made to the victims."

Under a plea deal, State Supreme Court Justice James Griffin sentenced Ramnarine to five years' probation and ordered him to pay the $100,000 restitution on April 25.

Ramnarine, the owner and operator of the Bronze Foundry and Gallery at 25-20 43rd Ave., was described by the district attorney as a skilled craftsman in his own right, with a reputation for excellence in the casting of bronze sculptures. He used his talents to make replicas of the sculptures that appeared unique.

According to the indictment, Ramnarine sold nine unauthorized copies of original sculptures by Fisher and Scharf to Bayside collector Jerome Nafthol, including a copy of Scharf's "Bird in Space." Each authentic work would have a market value of about $25,000, and the collector was cheated out of about $92,500, Brown said.

A second art collector who lives in New Jersey was cheated out of about $46,500 when he bought three unauthorized reproductions of sculptures by Cemin, Brown said.

Ramnarine was arraigned in October on charges of grand larceny, falsifying business records, scheme to defraud and criminal simulation. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by email at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.

Updated 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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