Art dealer ex of Made in Chelsea star faces 20 years in US jail over £16M scam

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An art dealer ex of a Made in Chelsea star faces 20 years in a US prison over a £16 million scam.   

Inigo Philbrick, 34, admitted to conning investors out of millions of pounds and told a judge he did it all ‘for the money’ to fund a lavish lifestyle while he dated Victoria Baker-Harber.

When the ‘serial swindler’ was uncovered in November 2019, he failed to appear for court hearings in both London and Miami, cities in which he owns art galleries, before he was eventually arrested by the FBI on the Pacific island of Vanuatu. 

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A court heard the lucrative scam paid for his ‘lifestyle’, with Philbrick appearing as an expert on art business conferences and his offices registered in Grosvenor Street, Mayfair.

He also has a baby with Ms Baker-Harber, 33, whom he began dating in 2017.

His then partner gave birth to daughter Gaia in November last year, with the Made in Chelsea socialite posting pictures of her first birthday on Instagram earlier this month. 

Inigo Philbrick pictured with former partner Victoria Baker-Harber, of Made in Chelsea fame, whom he had a baby with last year

Inigo Philbrick pictured with former partner Victoria Baker-Harber, of Made in Chelsea fame, whom he had a baby with last year

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Ms Baker-Harber during an episode of Made in Chelsea on Channel 4. Her former partner has admitted conning investors out of millions of pounds

Ms Baker-Harber during an episode of Made in Chelsea on Channel 4. Her former partner has admitted conning investors out of millions of pounds

Victoria pictured with Jamie Laing (right) having lunch during an episode of Made in Chelsea in 2017

Victoria pictured with Jamie Laing (right) having lunch during an episode of Made in Chelsea in 2017

Philbrick was arrested in June last year following allegations he sold the same art works to different investors, sometimes at inflated prices, in order to get money to pay for another, reported The Telegraph.

It was alleged he resold an artwork for £4.1m in 2019, only for one person to claim they held 100 per cent of it and another two 50 per cent each. 

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He came to the attention of police in November 2019, but fled the US.

Not even Ms Baker-Harber was aware of his whereabouts before he was arrested seven months later on the remote island.

She was also unaware of his criminal activity. 

Philbrook has not met his daughter, with the reality star speaking of her heartbreak as she raises her baby alone.

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Following the birth last year, she told Hello!: ‘As hard as its been not to have Inigo around, I’ve been lucky to have amazing friends and amazing family.

‘I am really excited for Gaia’s first Christmas, I am going to have all of my family around. Sadly probably won’t have Inigo around but as soon as I’m able to, I’m going to go and visit him so they can meet.’ 

It is understood Philbrick was arrested after he browsed for souvenirs near the beach.

He pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud charges at a New York’s Southern District Court on Thursday and now faces a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment.

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He was also ordered to forfeit more than £63.9m. 

When asked by Jude Stein why he committed the crimes, Philbrick replied: ‘For the money, your honour’.

Jeffery Lichtman, Philbrick’s attorney, added: ‘It’s a sad day for Inigo, but he’s happy to put this behind him

 ‘The industry is corrupt from top to bottom. Inigo isn’t the cause here, he’s a symptom. I suspect many more cases like this would appear if the art world were investigated thoroughly.

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‘While his actions were dishonest and criminal in nature, he’s part of an industry sick from top to bottom where this sort of behaviour is sadly commonplace.

‘That being said, he apologises to his victims and will do all that he can to make them whole.’

Philbrick (pictured) has admitted conning investors out of millions of pounds and told a judge he did it all 'for the money'

Philbrick (pictured) has admitted conning investors out of millions of pounds and told a judge he did it all ‘for the money’

Ms Baker-Harber shows off her baby bump before giving birth to Gaia on November 1, 2020

Ms Baker-Harber shows off her baby bump before giving birth to Gaia on November 1, 2020

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Ms Baker-Harber posted pictured to her Instagram celebrating daughter Gaia's first birthday earlier this month

Ms Baker-Harber posted pictured to her Instagram celebrating daughter Gaia’s first birthday earlier this month

Philbrick's scams included the sale of a 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat named Humidity, pictured above

Philbrick’s scams included the sale of a 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat named Humidity, pictured above

The home of Philbrick's registered offices in Grosvenor Street, Mayfair. The art dealer fraudulently lived a lavish lifestyle

The home of Philbrick’s registered offices in Grosvenor Street, Mayfair. The art dealer fraudulently lived a lavish lifestyle

Philbrick (right) attends the opening of a Jean Royere Exhibition at Galerie Patrick Seguin London on February 25, 2016, with ex-partner Fran Mancini

Philbrick (right) attends the opening of a Jean Royere Exhibition at Galerie Patrick Seguin London on February 25, 2016, with ex-partner Fran Mancini

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However, US Attorney Damian Williams referred to Philbrick as a ‘serial swindler’ who took advantage of the art market. 

Works involved in his scam included a 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat named Humidity, a 2010 untitled painting by Christopher Wool and an untitled 2012 painting by Rudolf Stingel depicting Pablo Picasso.

Philbrick, dubbed the ‘Mini Madoff of the art world’, will return to court for sentencing on March 18, 2022.

The rise and fall of America’s biggest Ponzi conman Bernie Madoff

Fraudster Inigo Philbrick has been dubbed the ‘Mini Madoff of the art world’ after duping investors out of millions.

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Bernie Madoff is the man behind the biggest and most devastating Ponzi scheme in history that robbed tens of thousands of victims worldwide of $65 billion.

He went from a high-flying Wall Street financier to living out his dying days in a North Carolina prison. 

For decades, Madoff – a former chairman of the Nasdaq stock market – enjoyed an image as a self-made financial guru whose good fortune defied market fluctuations.

By the 1980s, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities occupied three floors of a midtown Manhattan high-rise

By the 1980s, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities occupied three floors of a midtown Manhattan high-rise

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He attracted a devoted legion of investment clients from Florida retirees to the rich and famous including director Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon and former New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon. 

However, it all came crashing down in 2008 after his investment advisory business was exposed as a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that had eradicated people’s fortunes – both rich and poor – and destroyed charities and foundations worldwide.

Madoff, behind what is believed to be the largest fraud in Wall Street’s history, became so hated he had to wear a bulletproof vest to court after admitting to his crimes.

He died in April earlier this year while serving a 150 year prison sentence at Butner Federal Correctional Complex.

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The epic downfall from his financial fraud not only destroyed the lives of his 37,000 victims but also that of his own family, including his two sons who ended up turning their father over to the authorities.

One of his sons, Mark, killed himself on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest in 2010. Madoff’s other son, Andrew, died from cancer at age 48. His wife Ruth is still alive and has since vanished to Greenwich, Connecticut. 

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The fraudster, born in Connecticut, rose to notoriety in the industry after moving to Britain to study at Goldsmiths, University of London, aged 23.

He is the son of Harry Philbrick, a respected former museum director, and Jane, a Harvard-educated writer and artist. 

Philbrick interned at the White Cube gallery in London before being made director of secondary market sales.

Three years later, he opened the Inigo Philbrick Gallery in Mayfair.  

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He also has a daughter with former girlfriend and fellow art dealer Fran Mancini, who he was in a relationship with up until 2017. 

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