From the NY Times:
Pei-Shen Qian’s neighbors on 95th Street in Woodhaven, Queens, knew he scratched out a living as an artist: he often dried his paintings in the sun, propping them up on the weathered white siding of his modest house.
They were less clear on why he kept his windows covered, or why every so often a man in an expensive car would come to the house carrying paintings to, not from, a painter.
“He would bring a painting in and show it to him, for him to work on or fix up something,” Edwin Gardiner, 68, who lives across the street, said before pausing and adding, “I don’t know what he did with it.”
Parts of the mystery became clearer on Friday as neighbors learned that Mr. Qian, a quiet 73-year-old immigrant from China in a paint-flecked smock, is suspected of having fooled the art world by creating dozens of works that were modeled after America’s Modernist masters and were later sold as their handiwork for more than $80 million.
Mr. Qian, who came here more than four decades ago and struggled to sell his own works in this country, earned just a few thousand dollars for each of his imitations. New York was a center of the art world, but Mr. Qian told friends that he had been disheartened by the difficulties he encountered finding a foothold as an artist.
“He was kind of frustrated because of the language problem, the connection problem,” said Zhang Hongtu, a friend and acclaimed Chinese artist who lives in New York. “He was not that happy.”
Mr. Qian’s low profile as a painter has evaporated; federal authorities have decided that he was the artist whose fakes are at the heart of one of the bolder art frauds in recent memory.
A revised federal indictment handed up this week charged Glafira Rosales, one of the dealers accused of having peddled his works, with money laundering and tax evasion in connection with the sales.
The indictment does not name Mr. Qian, who could not be reached for comment on Friday, but people with knowledge of the case confirmed that he was the man referred to only elliptically in the charges as the “Painter.” Neighbors say agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation searched his home this week.