An art dealer with galleries in London and Miami was arrested on U.S. charges that he defrauded victims of more than $20 million to finance his business.

Inigo Philbrick, who specializes in post-war and contemporary fine art, was arrested Thursday in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, about 8,400 miles from New York, where he was charged. He is expected to be presented in U.S. court in Guam on June 15, prosecutors said in a statement.

Philbrick, 33, was “a serial swindler” who ripped off art collectors, investors and lenders, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in the statement.

From 2016 to 2019, Philbrick sold the same art works to different investors, sometimes using the works as collateral on loans while hiding others’ ownership interests, prosecutors said.

The art dealer had been missing for months, following a slew of lawsuits last year in London, New York and Miami, including by the billionaire Reuben brothers. The case has roped in major auction houses and an art-finance firm linked to billionaire George Soros. Companies in Asia, Europe and the U.S. have staked claims, some competing, to various pieces.

A lawyer for Philbrick couldn’t immediately be located for comment. Two Miami attorneys who had stopped representing him in civil litigation didn’t return phone and email messages seeking comment.

One Singapore-based art investor, LLG PTE Ltd., told a London judge Philbrick holds about $70 million of assets and that the combined value of the art managed by his businesses may be as much as $150 million.

Love for Pumpkins
Among the artworks contested by investors is a $12.5 million painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Yayoi Kusama’s installation sold to the Saudi royal family, a 2010 untitled painting by the Christopher Wool, and an untitled 2012 portrait of the artist Pablo Picasso by Rudolf Stingel. Another is Kusama’s immersive work, “All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins,” which was sold to the Royal Commission for Al-Ula about a year ago.

By late 2019, investors and lenders were discovering that Philbrick had lied and created fraudulent records, the government said. German art investment firm Fine Art Partners sued Philbrick and his gallery in September, alleging breach of contract and seeking the return of $14 million of art he purchased on its behalf, including the pumpkin room.

Prosecutors say Philbrick fled the U.S. for Vanuatu in October. Once a regular at Art Basel and other events, Philbrick failed to appear for court hearings in Miami and London. His galleries in Miami and London were shuttered, and his assets were frozen by a London judge.

Philbrick is charged with one count each of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. The wire fraud charge carries a top sentence of 20 years in prison.

--With assistance from Ellen Milligan.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.