In 2001, Boise art patrons thrilled to a Boise Art Museum exhibit featuring the work of artist Dale Chihuly, whose glassblown sculptures are showcased around the world. The popular Boise exhibit attracted tens of thousands of fans to BAM and Chihuly himself made a rare public appearance when he was feted in a special reception at the Egyptian Theatre.
The Washington-based 72-year-old Chihuly helped launch Tacoma' Museum of Glass and The Seattle Times has reported that in some years, his estimated sales were close to $30 million.
So, when a Seattle collector of Chihuly paid $25,000 for approximately 100 pieces, he thought it was a steal. But it turns out that the real thief in the night was a knock-off artist who will be spending some time behind bars for marketing the phony Chihulys.
The Associated Press reports that Michael Little of Renton has been ordered to spend five months in prison, followed by five months at a halfway house and three years of supervised release for his guilty plea of wire fraud. The AP reports that Little ripped off at least two dozen victims who thought they had purchased Chihuly originals.
Little told prosecutors that he blamed his crimes on a "mysterious woman" who supposedly provided him with the counterfeit art.
Meanwhile, the victims of the crime told the AP that they are considering donating the fake art to be used as educational tools to help teach art students the difference between the fakes and the real thing.