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Prison Time For Peter Max Faker

April 23, 2024
A photograph of the artist Peter Max

Peter Max (photo courtesy of John Mathew Smith)

Last week, a Connecticut court sentenced a man to prison for selling fake paintings being passed off as originals by the American pop artist Peter Max.

29-year-old Nicholas Hatch of Wilton, Connecticut, was arrested in May 2023 for selling one hundred forty-five fake Peter Max paintings. He pled guilty to mail fraud charges and was sentenced to repay the $248,600 to forty-three of his buyers. Hatch created a company in Norwalk called Hatch Estate Services, which would provide fake paintings to buyers through sites like estatesales.org. In December 2021, the FBI’s office in New Haven received a tip from a Hatch Estate Services employee, saying that they had discovered about one hundred fake Peter Max paintings in a warehouse in Bridgeport. This led to discovering Hatch’s scheme: he would apply paint over top of pre-bought Peter Max prints to imitate the color and the brushstroke patterns of real paintings. Genuine Peter Max paintings often sell in the $10,000 to $20,000 range. So when Hatch would sell his fakes for $1,300 and $2,900 each, the buyers must have thought they were getting a bargain. Hatch used multiple aliases and created several shell companies to help cover his tracks; some of the fakes even came with their own forged certificates of authenticity. He also kept the prints in multiple locations, mainly at warehouses and storage facilities. Investigators uncovered security footage at a self-storage facility in New Jersey, showing Hatch wheeling around a cart filled with dozens of framed prints. The scam ran from April 2020 to January 2022.

Peter Max has been in the news recently mainly because of legal issues concerning his children. For years, Libra and Adam Max have been trying to get rid of their father’s court-appointed legal guardian because of alleged abuse. Peter has been suffering from dementia due to Alzheimer’s for a little over a decade, and in 2015, he chose to have the court appoint a third-party legal guardian for him and his estate. The Max children allege that their father’s guardian has been trying to cut them off from their father and is siphoning money from the estate. However, the Max children’s efforts may have less to do with concern for their father and more about augmenting their share of their inheritance.

On Wednesday, April 17th, the Connecticut district court sentenced Hatch to 14 months in prison, which will begin on June 17th. After that, he must undergo three years of supervised release.