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Guilty Plea for Last Defendant in Connection with Counterfeit Clementine Hunter Paintings Sales
Art collector Don Fuson conducts an interview in front of what is thought to be a forged Clementine Hunter paintings in Baton Rouge, La. AP Photo/Bill Haber.

ALEXANDRIA, LA.- United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced that Robert E. Lucky, Jr, 64, of New Orleans, pled guilty to a one-count bill of information charging mail fraud in connection with selling non-authentic paintings falsely attributed to Clementine Hunter.

Lucky utilized various sources to obtain Clementine Hunter paintings, including paintings from William and Beryl Toye, which have been determined by government experts to be non-authentic. Lucky then resold the fake paintings for a profit. Lucky faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both when he is sentenced on October 21, 2011.

William Toye, 80; his wife, Beryl Ann Toye, 70, of Baton Rouge; and Robert Lucky were named in a four-count indictment charging all three defendants with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. William Toye pleaded guilty on June 6, 2011, to conspiring to defraud collectors of Clementine Hunter paintings by misrepresenting the authenticity and origin of the paintings. Beryl Toye pleaded guilty on August 2, 2011, to conspiracy. The Toyes each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both when they are sentenced on October 21, 2011.

Clementine Hunter was an African-American folk artist who lived in Natchitoches Parish, La. Ms. Hunter began painting in the late 1930s and continued to paint until a few days before her death on January 1, 1988. The value of Ms. Hunter’s paintings vary and are actively sold on the open art market.

U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. Finley stated: “Ms. Hunter was a gem of the state of Louisiana. Her artwork was her legacy to all of us. 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. It is incumbent upon all citizens of Louisiana to protect its art. With the conclusion of this case, a question that began over 40 years ago has finally been answered. We hope the focus can now be on the great work of Clementine Hunter and trying to make the victims in this case whole.”

The case was investigated by Special Agent Randolph J. Deaton, IV, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Alexandria Resident Agency, and is being prosecuted by First Assistant United States Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook and Assistant United States Attorney Cytheria D. Jernigan.

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