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Auctioneer cancels sale after being accused of selling fakes

January 28, 1997

MIAMI (AP) _ An auctioneer today canceled a sale of art supposedly by Georgia O’Keeffe, Jasper Johns and other top artists because experts confirmed some of the works were phony.

``I am not an art expert and never claimed to be. This was my first venture in the field of fine art,″ C.B. Charles said in a telephone interview today.

He described himself as an estate auctioneer, with 39 years of experience in such things as estate sales, antiques and collectibles. He is known for handling auctions of jewelry and other property of late celebrities such as Mary Pickford, Orson Welles, Mae West and Audrey Meadows.

Law enforcement officials had confirmed earlier today they were investigating Charles’ planned auction of 294 works.

The FBI and Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services were among those investigating, said Scott Dressler, an assistant state attorney who is head of Broward County’s Economic Crimes Division.

Dressler said authorities were contacted by a lawyer who believed that the sale planned for Sunday might involve fakes.

``Members of his organization had viewed a pamphlet or brochure being sent nationwide and they were calling in to him that people who owned originals of artwork in the brochures knew that this was potentially a fraud on the public,″ Dressler said today.

Charles, who has a gallery in Pompano Beach, said experts looked over the pieces and told him some that were phony.

He said he was handling the sale for a Florida collector, but would not identify him.

``I’m just the auctioneer,″ he said. ``The owner made up the catalog, made up the descriptions.″

Charles said he was embarrassed, but relieved that the fraud came to light before the auction.

``God must be looking over me,″ he said. ``I’m just glad I didn’t go through with the auction.″

The works advertised for the auction included a wooden sculpture by Constantin Brancusi. The New York Times quoted experts on Brancusi as saying that none of the sculptor’s many versions of ``The Bird″ was wooden.

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