He was sentenced in Manhattan federal court yesterday and ordered to forfeit the £80 million.
Philbrick rose up the ranks of the art scene in London before going on to run his two galleries specialising in postwar and contemporary fine art. He ran a “Ponzi-like scheme” in which he used money from some customers to buy artworks, pay off others and bankroll a lavish lifestyle, federal prosecutors said.
They told the court how Philbrick misrepresented the ownership of artworks and sometimes sold more than 100 per cent ownership to multiple people and entities without their knowledge.
He closed his galleries and fled the US to the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu in 2019 after his elaborate scams began to unravel.
US Attorney Damian Williams said that Philbrick’s success as an art dealer came only after he collateralised and resold fractional shares in high-value contemporary art.
“Unfortunately, his success was built on brazen lies, including concealed ownership interests, fake documents, and even an invented art collector,” Mr Williams said.
“When the house of cards fell apart, Philbrick fled for a remote island in the Pacific, leaving many of his victims without recourse. For his extensive fraud, Philbrick is now sentenced to a substantial prison term.”
Artworks used in the scheme included a 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat titled Humidity, a 2010 painting by Christopher Wool and one by Rudolf Stingel depicting Pablo Picasso. The fraud unravelled as cheated buyers filed lawsuits and one lender sued Philbrick over a $14 million (£11 million) loan.