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Simcoe County man charged in massive art fraud investigation appears in court

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Three people, including a local man, accused of forging and selling fraudulent artwork attributed to a famed Indigenous artist, appeared for the first time in court.

James White of Essa Township and two other Ontario men made virtual appearances Thursday on charges of forgery and fraud-related offences after police seized over 1,000 allegedly fake paintings, prints and other artworks attributed to the renowned Indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau.

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 and call it the largest art fraud investigation in the world based on how long it's been going on and the number of pieces involved.

Police believe the operation may have defrauded the unsuspecting public over $100 million globally.

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Earlier this month, the three men were charged alongside five others, including Morrisseau's nephew.

The Ontario men are scheduled to make their next appearance in the Superior Court of Justice on April 6.

With files from CTV's Jonathan Guignard

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