A Los Angeles gallery owner who was sold a pair of phony Andy Warhol paintings by a man whose wife mysteriously vanished on New Year’s Day described him as a convincing smooth-talker who can’t be trusted.
“He knows how to play the legal system, he knows how to play everyone and everything,” Ron Rivlin told The Daily Beast. “He’s very calculated.”
Brian Walshe, 46, was arrested Monday and is being held on $500,000 bail after Massachusetts police said he intentionally misled them during their investigation into the unexplained Jan. 1 disappearance of 39-year-old real estate executive Ana Walshe. The pair, who live in the Boston suburb of Cohasset, have been married for about seven years and have three sons, aged from 2 to 6.
Rivlin, a former talent manager and agent working in the music industry who founded L.A.’s Revolver Gallery in 2012 and is now one of the nation’s top dealers of Warhol artworks, on Monday described Walshe, who is now accused of trying to cause “a clear delay” for investigators as they searched for his wife, as “very two-faced.” In Rivlin’s case, he said Brian was initially “charismatic, articulate, transparent, and professional,” then did a complete 180 after he delivered fake paintings and was “unreachable until I spoke to Ana at work, and later the FBI.”
To that end, Rivlin said Walshe, who has been under home confinement for the past seven months as he awaits sentencing in the Warhol case, talked a great game.
“I’ve bought over a thousand Warhols and this is the one and only acquisition that got by me,” Rivlin continued, saying Walshe acted like a perfect gentleman until he got what he wanted, then he ghosted. “He was that good. Clever playbook and Oscar-worthy performance.”
Rivlin got involved with the Walshes in 2016, when he heard from an acquaintance that two canvases from Warhol’s abstract “Shadows” series were being offered on eBay for $80,000.
Brian had gotten the paintings, which were posted on Ana’s eBay seller’s account, from a college friend after convincing him he could get a good price for them, court records show. The photos posted in the eBay listing were of the genuine works, which had been fully authenticated by Warhol’s estate. But what Brian handed over to Rivlin’s assistant, who Rivlin said flew out to Boston from L.A. to finalize the deal, were fakes, as Brian confessed in a guilty plea last year.
Once Rivlin realized Brian had tried to dupe him, he said he immediately swung into action in an attempt to get his money back. Yet, it was an uphill battle from the get-go, Rivlin recalled.
Since Brian refused to return any of Rivlin’s phone calls, he tracked down Ana, who was working at the front desk of a swanky Boston hotel at the time. Rivlin said he told her that if Brian didn’t call him back, he would keep calling her at work until he got some answers. Rivlin also contacted Brian’s mother, whose name was on the title to Brian and Ana’s home. After the mom hung up on Rivlin, he said her lawyer responded with a message that she did not want to be involved.
The next day, Rivlin got an email from Brian, which offered a raft of excuses but not much else. He claimed in the message that he didn’t have his phone with him, that the time difference between Boston and L.A. made it difficult to call, that he found Rivlin to be “a fair and honest businessman” and that he “would like to return your $80,000 ASAP,” according to the 2018 complaint charging Brian with wire fraud.
“Once you receive your money please send me the ‘shadows,’” Brian wrote. “I need to investigate what happened on my side of this transaction… I don’t want you to suffer financially from this transaction. Especially if the fault is on my side.”
Weeks went by, and Brian continued to string Rivlin along. In one email included in the criminal complaint against Brian, he claimed, “They set the wires up yesterday when the teller systems were down.” Eventually, Brian wired $15,000 to Rivlin, followed by another $15,000 about a week later.
Then, radio silence.
“I spoke to [Ana] maybe once or twice after that because they were supposed to refund me and repay me, then that started falling apart,” Rivlin told The Daily Beast. “First it was, ‘We’ll give you your money back.’ Then it was, ‘We’ll make payments.’ Then the payments stopped… He paid $30,000 of the $80,000 [he owed] and then he went silent again.”
Although Brian Walshe has not been charged with his wife’s disappearance, the latest accusations against him also center on his apparently dubious relationship with the truth—and like Rivlin, investigators say they couldn’t get a straight answer to their queries.
Ana Walshe commutes weekly to Washington, D.C. for work, staying in a $2.4 million townhouse the couple owns, and spends weekends back home with her family, authorities said. She had been scheduled to return to D.C. on Jan. 3, but pushed the plan up by two days to handle an emergency at one of the buildings she managed, according to Cohasset Police Chief William Quigley.
Brian said he was asleep when Ana booked a rideshare service to take her to Logan Airport the morning after a New Year’s Eve celebration at their house, where Brian has spent the past seven months under home detention while waiting to be sentenced on federal fraud charges.
But Ana never made it to the airport, and prosecutors said Monday they believe she may not have even gotten into a car. And while Brian told cops he spent New Year’s Day running errands to Whole Foods and CVS for his ailing mother, video footage reviewed by investigators showed these visits “did not occur,” states a probable cause affidavit filed by Cohasset Police Det. Harrison W. Schmidt.
The next day, the affidavit alleges, Brian told investigators he only left the house to take his oldest son out for ice cream. However, he instead went to a nearby Home Depot, where he was seen on security video “making a cash purchase” while donning “a black surgical mask [and] blue surgical gloves,” according to the affidavit. In court on Monday, prosecutors said he bought items including mops, tarps, tape, buckets, and drop cloths, violating the terms of his home detention in the process.
Further, they told the judge, crime scene investigators discovered blood and a bloody knife in the basement of the Walshe’s home in Cohasset during a search after Ana went missing.
Brian, according to police, was initially cooperative. He then began stonewalling detectives as the investigation continued, leading to the new obstruction charge.
“It’s incredibly sad to learn that Ana is missing,” Rivlin told The Daily Beast. “As a parent of young children, I’m having a hard time processing this and hope that she is found and reunited with her family. In the immediate aftermath of the transaction, she seemed shocked and pressured Brian to call me. They were newlyweds at the time, and I got a sense from speaking with her that she wasn’t in on the crime.”
Walshe ultimately sold the real “Shadow” paintings—without telling the friend who actually owned them—and “provided information” to the government that allowed them to “track the paintings to where they are today,” and “make a decision with respect to forfeiture,” according to a memo submitted to the court by defense lawyers. However, according to Rivlin, who claims to know where the genuine Warhols ended up, the works were sold overseas and are thus out of reach of U.S. authorities.
“The irony in all this is that there was a window of time when he could’ve just returned my money and he didn’t,” Rivlin said on Monday. “He started returning my money, and I told him that if he returned it all, I wouldn’t pursue it any further. He took a chance, and I followed through on my promise. And I did my own investigating, so I helped the FBI with everything to make it more chargeable.”
Rivlin still hasn’t seen the $50,000 Brian Walshe owes him, and said his lawyer told him not to expect it. This, said Rivlin, “is telling of [Walshe’s] masterful ability to coerce people.”
“I couldn’t break him down,” Rivlin said. “Lawyers, courts, all that, and he still didn’t voluntarily settle. He never apologized.”