La man admits selling forged folk artist paintings

By the Associated Press | June 6, 2011 | 5:43 PM EDT

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — A federal prosecutor says a 79-year-old Baton Rouge, La., man has admitted forging paintings and selling them as work by the famous folk artist Clementine Hunter.

U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley says William Toye pleaded guilty Monday to one count of conspiracy to sell forgeries falsely attributed to Hunter.

Toye, his wife and a 63-year-old New Orleans art dealer were charged last year with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and three counts of mail fraud.

Sentencing is scheduled Sept. 7. Finley says Toye must pay restitution, and could get up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Hunter died in 1988. She taught herself to paint with brushes and paint an artist left at a plantation where she worked. Many of her paintings depicted plantation life.