New York: An Indian-American foundry owner, who claimed that he had been invited to participate in building the world's largest statue of Sardar Vallabhai Patel in Gujarat, has been sentenced to prison for selling fake bronze sculptures for millions of dollars in the US.
Brian Ramnarine, 60, of Queens was sentenced in Manhattan federal court to 30 months in prison for fraudulently selling and attempting to sell, for more than USD 11 million, bronze sculptures that he falsely represented to be works of art by prominent artists Jasper Johns, Robert Indiana and Saint Clair Cemin, federal prosecutor Preet Bharara said in a statement.
Ramnarine, who was arrested in November 2012 and had pled guilty in January this year, was also sentenced by US District Judge John Koeltl to three years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit the fake sculptures and pay about USD 70,000 to his victims and as forfeiture.
Described by Bharara as a "con artist", he was given special permission by Koeltl to attend the September 28 grand reception hosted by the Indian-American community at Madison Square Garden here in honour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Indian leader was also allegedly presented with a 'Peace Warrior' statue that Ramnarine had cast, according to a report in the Courthouse News Service.
Ramnarine's lawyer Troy Smith said in a New York Daily News report the prison time would cost his client a big opportunity as he had been invited to participate in the building of Patel's statue, touted as the world's largest once completed.
A project close to his heart, Modi has set aside USD 33 million to help fund the construction of the bronze-and-iron 'Statue of Unity' in Gujarat.
Ramnarine admitted to the charges five days into his trial early this year and during his sentencing he told the judge that he is "sorry to bring shame on my family."
The prison term is well below the eight to 10 years Ramnarine faced. He has to report to prison in January next year.
Smith had sought a lenient sentence citing Ramnarine's "serious health issues."
Bharara said Ramnarine's "only art was as a con artist" who concocted and carried out three separate schemes to peddle fake sculptures to unsuspecting buyers for millions of dollars, pretending that they had been made by well-known artists.