Skip to main content

Eight people charged in decades-long Ontario art fraud investigation

Share

Eight people are facing charges in connection to an apparent decades-long art fraud investigation.

Allegations began in 2007 when it was thought people were creating and selling artwork under the name of Indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau – in his distinctive Woodland School of Art style.

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and the Thunder Bay Police Service made the arrests on Wednesday and announced the news at a press conference at OPP General Headquarters in Orillia on Friday.

Morrisseau, also known as Copper Thunderbird, was a prolific Indigenous artist from the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation.

The OPP Criminal Investigation Branch and Thunder Bay police have led the investigation since 2020.

Police have seized over 1,000 alleged fraudulent paintings, prints and other artworks since that time and say some of the work was sold to unsuspecting public members for tens of thousands of dollars.

OPP calls it the largest art fraud investigation in the world in terms of how long it’s been going on and the number of pieces involved. 

"It was important for the OPP and the Thunder Bay Police Service to identify and hold accountable those who allegedly profited illegally by forging Norval Morrisseau's artwork," OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique said.

"The results of this investigation are a testament to the commitment and competence of the investigators and the collaboration of policing partners."

The eight people who have been arrested are facing 40 total charges. Of those charged, one man is from Essa Township.

He's charged with uttering a forged document, defrauding the public over $5,000 and four counts of fraud over $5,000.

"Norval Morrisseau was a prominent artist of the Thunder Bay region, and to profit off of his name is not only unethical but also illegal," said Chief Dan Taddeo, Thunder Bay Police Service.

"Together with the Ontario Provincial Police, I congratulate all involved for successfully resolving such an important investigation."

Five of the eight arrested are from Thunder Bay, while the others are from Niagara-on-the-Lake and Locust Hill.

They all face similar charges.   

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

Some birds may use 'mental time travel,' study finds

Real quick — what did you have for lunch yesterday? Were you with anyone? Where were you? Can you picture the scene? The ability to remember things that happened to you in the past, especially to go back and recall little incidental details, is a hallmark of what psychologists call episodic memory — and new research indicates that it’s an ability humans may share with birds called Eurasian jays.

Stay Connected