Brush with law gives art forger two years in prison

An art fraudster who forged paintings potentially worth hundreds of thousands of pounds has been jailed for two years, police said.

The forgeries of William “Billy” Mumford created over five years imitated a range of artists including Sayed Haider Raza, Francis Newton Souza, Maqbool Fida Husain, Welsh landscape painter Kyffin Williams, and English surrealist and modernist artist John Tunnard, Scotland Yard said.

A Yard spokesman said Operation Sketch, which was led by the Metropolitan Police’s art and antiques unit, identified the crime in April 2009 after officers were contacted by a major London auction house which had identified an unusually high number of paintings offered for sale by Husain – sometimes called “the Picasso of India”.

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Hundreds of paintings were found in the back bedroom and garage of Mumford’s home in East Preston, West Sussex, along with gallery stamps, ink pads and Victorian paper used to create a false provenance and dupe art experts and investors alike.

The 63-year-old, who admitted creating up to 1,000 forgeries and conspiracy to deceive potential buyers and launder the proceeds of the crimes, was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court having pleaded guilty on an earlier occasion to conspiracy to defraud.

A number of co-conspirators placed the works for sale on Ebay and at auction houses throughout the UK, receiving a 20 per cent cut, the Yard spokesman said.

Mumford’s wife Daphne, 62, who admitted money laundering, was given a one-year jail term, suspended for two years.

Others included Martin Petrskovsky, 35, of Wick, Littlehampton, West Sussex, who admitted conspiracy to defraud and was jailed for 21 months. His wife Karen Petrskovsky, 25, admitted conspiracy to defraud, and was given a one-year term, suspended for two years. Anthony Resse, 24, of Littlehampton, West Sussex, who admitted conspiracy to defraud, was jailed for a year, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 200 hours’ unpaid work.

Paul Shepherd, 41, of Worthing, West Sussex, who admitted fraud by false representation, was jailed for a year, suspended for two years and ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work.