A man who was a recent mayoral candidate in Mexico was arrested in New York and accused of peddling four purported pieces by modern art icons Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, federal prosecutors said Friday.
The man, Angel Pereda, 49, was arrested Friday in New York based on an allegation of wire fraud in what federal law enforcement authorities described as an attempt to get millions of dollars in exchange for fake works of art, the U.S. attorney for Southern New York said in a statement.
Pereda, also known as Angel Luis Pereda Eguiluz, recently ran unsuccessfully for mayor of the central Mexican city of San Andrés Cholula, known for its proximity to the Great Pyramid of Cholula, according to Mexican news accounts.
News accounts indicate that he also runs an eponymous foundation.
No connection was made between the allegations against and Pereda campaign. An FBI agent investigating the case, Christopher McKeogh, noted in the criminal complaint that Pereda was the subject of "news articles referring to an apparent recent municipal election."
The federal public defender's office and the Mexican Consulate in New York City did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
McKeogh alleged that Pereda tried to sell multiple fake artworks to various auction houses, including a copy of Basquiat's "Glory Boys Kingdom," a vase and a painting by Haring, and a collaborative painting by Basquiat and Haring.
Pieces by Basquiat and Haring have brought big numbers at auction. In 2017 a Basquiat painting was sold for $110.5 million, a U.S. record at the time.
Late last year, at least two auction houses in New York City discovered that pieces being peddled to them were fake through the Keith Haring Foundation, federal officials said. In one case a Haring piece was said to have been owned by the "Pareda Family, Mexico," they said.
A person "acting at the direction of the FBI" told Pereda on June 23 that one such piece, by Basquiat, was fake but that it would be flipped to a potential buyer for $6 million if Pereda could come up with fake documents showing its provenance, which he did, the complaint alleges.
"PEREDA expected to receive a portion of the revenue of the sale of this fraudulent painting," the filing said.
In one case, thousands of dollars were wired to an account Pereda held in Mexico for the purpose of "purchasing a painting," it said.
It was not clear what became of Pereda after he was arrested. He was not listed in an online database as a federal inmate. The charge of wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years if he is convicted.
The FBI, which continues to investigate, asked anyone with information about Pereda to step forward.