On 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper interviews art historian Jack Flamm, the first to detect the most lucrative art fraud scam in history. Pei-Shen Qian, a struggling artist working in his garage in Queens, New York, creating at least 40 paintings in the style of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Mark Rothko, among others, which were sold for millions. Flamm tells Cooper that he was amazed at the quality of the forgeries. “The guy really knew what he was doing,” says Flamm who blew the whistle to the government.
Qian was indicted on charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and lying to the FBI but dodged prosecution and up to 45 years in prison by moving to China which has no extradition treaty with the U.S. Alleged co-conspirators, brothers Jose Carlos and Jesus Angel Bergantinos Diaz and art dealer Glafira Rosales have been accused of selling the 40 counterfeit works to the New York City gallery Knoedler & Company, which collected about $63 million from their sale. Knoedler closed in 2011 after being sued by several buyers. ABC News has covered this, too, traveling to China to speak with Qian, who denies knowing about the scheme. He spends his days painting. “Nothing else is important,” he said. “I want to be an honest painter.” (See video below.) 60 Minutes airs Sunday at 7pm and 8pm on CBS.