The owner of a Queens foundry, who pleaded guilty early this year to selling a counterfeit sculpture worth $11 million, is allegedly behind another scam, according to a former New York City artist.
Brian Ramnarine, owner of the Empire Bronze Art Foundry in Long Island City, was arrested in 2012 for attempting to sell a sculpture advertised as genuine work by American artist Jasper Johns. In January, he pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud. He also pleaded guilty to falsely representing works from artists Robert Indiana and Saint Clair Cermin while he was out on bail.
Now, artist Richard Etts, a former New York City sculptor who has been living in California for the past 30 years, alleges one of his early pieces has met the same fate.
Etts was contacted by an art collector from Dallas, Texas, requesting authentication on a bronze Etts hand lamp, which the collector had purchased at an estate sale, the artist said. The artist was confused by the call because he says he never made any body sculptures out of bronze. All were made of plaster.
“Instead of denying that I made it, I requested photographs of stamps, signatures and dates,” Etts said. “And I was shocked to find that someone had forged my signature and put a different year on it and had the nerve to put their own stamp on it.”
In the photos he received, the sculpture is stamped with “Roman Bronze Works Inc.,” a company Ramnarine worked for before opening up his own foundry.
However at this point there is no direct evidence linking Ramnarine to the hand lamp.
Also, even though the original plaster sculpture was completed in 1972, the date 1983 also appears on the piece.
“What he has done is criminal and I’m getting no compensation for it and I want to prosecute if I can find the right person to handle this,” Etts said. “I want some money out of it and I want him to stop doing this.”
Etts also said he was thrown off by his large signature on the side of the piece.
“I would never deface my artwork with making my name so prominent on a piece of art,” Etts said. “He has made an effort of plagiarizing my signature.”
According to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York’s office, Etts must contact the Victims Witness Line to further investigate this incident.
Ramnarine’s attorney, Troy Smith, declined to comment.
Ramnarine’s sentencing on the earlier case has been adjourned until Sept. 19.