Miami Cuban art scammer gets 12 years prison

04/19/2013 6:19 PM

04/19/2013 11:42 PM

Convicted swindler Jorge Alberto Gonzalez on Friday apologized to the woman who believed he gave her a valuable Cuban modernist painting as collateral for a $250,000 investment.

The money disappeared and the painting was a fake - one of many he has passed off as authentic over the years, say dealers in Miami’s arts community.

And his criminal act drew a 12-year prison term Friday, to be followed by eight years probation.

“I do not think a sentence of probation would be sufficient because I don’t think you could make restitution” said Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Teresa Mary Pooler, who sentenced him Friday.

“It’s apparent from your history that you’ve had no legitimate job for the past 20 years and have been involved in taking money from people who are vulnerable. I do not find your remorse sincere.”

His past includes a federal conviction for cocaine dealing and a conviction for accessory in the mugging of an elderly man.

Gonzalez is still awaiting two trials. That includes allegations he conned his own cousin out of a $10,000 Rolex, plus $7,000 cash to be spent for a piece of artwork.

And, right before his original sentencing date in December, Gonzalez faked a suicide attempt and feigned mental illness.

A few days later, jailers recorded him in a phone call to his 12-year-old daughter, insulting the woman who turned him in and promising a lavish lifestyle to his child “no matter who it hurts or f**ks over.”

“I think, to a certain extent, you’ve made a mockery of the court system” Judge Pooler said.

Prosecutors said Gonzalez befriend divorcée Maria Davila and convinced her to give him $250,000 in an investment deal. As collateral, he offered the sham painting, allegedly by renown Cuban modernist Amelia Peláez.

But Gonzalez, 51, used the money not for an investment but to buy luxury cars, pay rent and fund his children’s private school education.

Jurors in November convicted him of first-degree grand theft. The four-day trial also featured testimony of Juan A. Martinez, an art historian at Florida International University, who testified that the Peláez painting was a poorly done forgery.

Gonzalez’s defense: he believed the painting was real.

Prosecutor William Kostrzewski on Friday showed the judge a seal embosser and blank forms found in his home believed to be used to authenticate sham paintings.

“Basically he’s got art fraud factory and warehouse,” Kostrzewski said.

Defense attorney Robert Perez bristled at the suggestion. “I think it is evidence of a messy house.”

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