Hawaii Couple Allegedly Sells Counterfeit Woodblocks, Charged with Mail Fraud and Money Laundering

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HARRISBURG – A married couple from Hawaii, Earl Marshawn Washington and Zsanett Nagy were charged by the United State’s Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering, and Washington charged separately with bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Washington, 60, and Nagy, 31, are both residents of Honolulu, Hawaii and, according to United States Attorney Gerard M. Karam allegedly sold counterfeit artistic goods, from 2015 to 2018, known as “woodblocks” or “woodcuts” to various buyers and laundered the proceeds from the sale of those goods. Xylography, also known as the art of making woodcuts, are the engravings created from wooden blocks and are a historical technique used for printing. In traditional xylography, a sharpened tool is used to create or carve a design into the surface of a woodblock where the elevated areas of the carvings are inked and printed and the recessed areas remain blank in the final print.

The arraignment also alleges the couple to be selling counterfeit woodblocks by marketing the art pieces as authentic woodblocks from between the 15th and early 20th centuries. Among the deceived buyers are a pair of woodblock collectors from France who allegedly paid $84,350.91 via Paypal to Nagy before they learned that the woodblocks they purchased were not from between the 15th and 20th centuries as what Washington and Nagy claimed in their advertisement. The indictment states that after Nagy received the money from Paypal, she transferred it to a bank account in her name, and immediately converted it to cash by withdrawing it to several thousands of dollars. Washington was also charged for defrauding a buyer from York, Pennsylvania who ordered 130 pieces of woodblocks, falling for Washington’s deception about the blocks being authentic and made several centuries ago. Washington conspired with his ex-girlfriend, from 2013 to 2016, and laundered $118,110.

“If you promise people one thing and sell them another, that’s fraud, plain and simple,” said Jacqueline Maguire, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “Here we had collectors paying for what they believed were old, rare, and valuable woodblocks and prints, but what they allegedly received were none of the above. The FBI’s Art Crime Team is uniquely positioned to investigate matters like this and committed to holding art fraudsters accountable.”

The forfeiture allegations, according to the indictment, seeks over $200,000 from Washington and Nagy collectively, and is also the alleged amount of sales the couple made from their buyers.

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